Thank you Mr. President, and thank you to Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin for your briefing, and to you and your colleagues for UNFPA’s work to prepare for this meeting. We welcome the opportunity for a productive exchange of views.
Allow me to begin by warmly welcoming the most recently appointed members of UNFPA’s senior management team. We look forward to working together with all of you.
Let me underscore the deep commitment of the United States to maternal health and access to reproductive health services worldwide, and our desire for close continuing cooperation with UNFPA’s leadership and staff, along with all stakeholders, on these pressing issues. In a world where, as Dr. Osotimehin noted, an estimated 287,000 women die annually from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, we know how much work we have to do, and the depth of the challenges we face.
UNFPA’s leadership will be essential in the years ahead. Let me start with the Family Planning 2020 partnership. Providing an additional 120 million women and girls in some of the world’s poorest countries with access to voluntary family planning services can only be met through the collective commitment of all stakeholders. We welcome Dr. Osotimehin’s role as Co-chair of the FP2020 Reference Group and look forward to working with UNFPA to see that these most vulnerable women and girls are not forgotten.
We also commend UNFPA’s humanitarian efforts to support some of the most vulnerable populations displaced by ongoing crises, particularly in Syria, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel. The United States is pleased to be able to provide direct support for UNFPA’s good work on reproductive health and gender-based violence as part of the revised Syria Regional Response Plan. We appreciate the challenges of operating in such a volatile environment. For that reason, we are concerned about high turnover in the Fund’s humanitarian management at headquarters in recent years. We would welcome discussion about what specific actions management is able to take to ensure continuity in capable leadership at headquarters which is so crucial to the success of UNFPA’s second-generation Humanitarian Response Strategy.
UNFPA is also an essential voice for ensuring that sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights remain high on the collective agenda. They need to be appropriately integrated into a post-2015 development framework, and we welcome hearing more about the thematic consultations that UNFPA plans to organize on population dynamics, since this vital cross-cutting issue has such a direct impact on our ability to reach our development goals. We also rely on UNFPA’s continued collaboration with UN Women, member states, and other stakeholders to ensure strong support for reproductive rights during future UN negotiations such as the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women on a theme— violence against women and girls—to which my own government, among many others, attaches great importance. We also applaud UNFPA’s diligent work in the ICPD Beyond 2014 review, especially the global survey and Bali Youth Forum. We look forward to learning more about the 2013 regional review processes as well as the Human Rights forum and technical meetings on women's health which will be critical for building meaningful support and engagement for both the post-ICPD and MDG agendas.
Let me next turn to evaluation and its importance in our continuing efforts to enhance the impact of the UN development system, including UNFPA. A strengthened and fully independent evaluation capacity is essential for all stakeholders to have confidence in the quality and impact of UNFPA’s work. We value the steps UNFPA leadership has already taken to put this into place and to demonstrate support and respect for an integrated, yet independent, system. An independent evaluation capacity will require clear delineation of respective roles and responsibilities between evaluations and programs as well as a sustained commitment to rigorous data collection and monitoring in order to provide the basis for credible evaluations of UNFPA’s work. We look forward to discussing the draft revision of UNFPA’s evaluation policy in depth and to working together to make UNFPA’s evaluation works as rigorous, robust, and useful as possible.
In that regard, we want to express appreciation for the candor and quality of the recent Maternal Health Thematic Evaluation covering the period 2000-2011, and we would like to acknowledge the staff of the Evaluation Branch for their excellent work. We view this assessment as an extremely positive step towards increased transparency for the organization. We commend senior management’s support for exactly this kind of analysis and for demonstrating an openness that is crucial for UN effectiveness system-wide. We look forward to dialogue with UNFPA’s management about the particular issues raised in this report and how the report’s recommendations can be used as opportunities to improve focus, strategic and operational planning at all levels, and delivery of results, particularly at the country level, in order to meet the maternal health needs of the most vulnerable.
Along these lines as well, we would like to reiterate the board’s request for UNFPA management to inform us when the audit report on the Global and Regional Program will be available. Additional delays in its release would run counter to the transparency efforts to which we know the UNFPA leadership is committed.
Finally, we would like to express support for UNFPA’s decision to base its next Strategic Plan for 2014-17 on the revised midterm review of the current plan in accordance with the Board’s recommendation. This will help leverage the Fund’s strengths and comparative advantages in advancing its core mandate in a complex and rapidly changing global development landscape. We look forward to learning more about progress at the February 1st briefing.
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