Mr. Executive Director, distinguished colleagues,
On behalf of the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and my own country Sweden, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin on his appointment as new Executive Director of UNFPA.
Dr. Osotimehin, we were pleased to hear you outline your vision for UNFPA. We feel convinced that your profound dedication and expertise in areas within UNFPA’s mandate will serve this organisation well. We look forward to fruitful and close cooperation with you.
The Nordic countries have a strong and longstanding commitment to UNFPA and its mandate. This is reflected in our financial contributions as well as in our active participation and dialogue with the organisation.
Let me briefly outline some of our priorities for UNFPA.
The Nordic countries are strong supporters of the principles embedded in the ICPD Programme of Action, and we welcome the decision by the General Assembly to extend the Programme beyond 2014. We believe that every woman and man should have the right to choose when, how and under which circumstances they want to have children. Individuals must be able to make informed choices and have access to a full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including contraceptives and safe abortion. We are convinced that such an approach results in wanted children and better health for them as well as for their mothers. If children are wanted and planned there are often better chances that the parents can afford to feed them, give them educational opportunities and other material and emotional resources needed for a prosperous future. The protection and promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights is of pivotal importance.
UNFPA’s work to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and every girl and woman treated with dignity and respect is essential to save women’s lives. Maternal mortality continues to be unacceptably high, despite welcome progress in some countries and regions. The causes for this are by now well known. They include gender discrimination and the low status of women and girls, the overall poor health of many expectant mothers – particularly those who live in rural areas, adolescents as well as those living in poverty – the continued unmet need for contraception, lack of skilled pre-natal care and assistance during delivery, and complications and injuries resulting from lack of access to safe abortions. By providing sexual and reproductive health services, before and during pregnancy and after childbirth, millions of lives of women and children can be saved. The Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health is important to reach Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, and we look forward to UNFPA’s active involvement in the follow-up to the strategy, also within the H4.
The Nordic countries will continue to work closely with UNFPA, governments, civil society and other partners to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as women’s empowerment and gender equality, all with the aim to achieve the goals set out in the ICPD Programme of Action and the MDG:s (Millennium Development Goals).
The establishment of UN Women will reinforce the efforts of UNFPA and other UN organisations to better support Member States in their work to advance gender equality and women’s rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights. The Nordic countries expect UNFPA to work closely with UN Women. Clear division of labour between the two organizations is needed, building on their respective comparative advantages.
We were pleased to hear the Executive Director stress the importance of focusing on adolescents and young people in order to advance the principles and goals of ICPD. They are the ones that will form our future. Sexuality education, education on reproductive health and rights and education to strengthen critical thinking and life skills will taken together make it possible for young women and men to better protect themselves against discrimination, infection and violence. The Nordic countries firmly believe that also young people and adolescents should have access to sexual and reproductive health services on their terms. Their voices need to be listened to by decision-makers.
In order to deliver on its mandate, the UN Development System needs to reform. It is of utmost importance that the recommendations from the High-level Panel on System-wide coherence are followed up. The process of Delivering as One at country level has already shown results. UNFPA has played a constructive role in driving the reform process, and we look forward to continued active engagement by UNFPA in UN Reform in the coming years.
In recent years, UNFPA has made important changes in its organizational structure and procedures. Important steps have been taken to improve results-based management, ensure the independence and quality of the evaluation function, and strengthen financial management and accountability. These changes must be consolidated. An important challenge is to ensure results-oriented high quality UNFPA program delivery at the country level. This is a matter of high priority for the Nordic countries.
A major milestone in the near future is the Mid-Term Review of UNFPA’ s Strategic Plan. We are confident that UNFPA will use this opportunity to sharpen its strategic direction and improve the results framework of the fund. This is also a prerequisite for making the ongoing budget reform process a success.
To conclude, let me repeat our warm congratulation to Dr. Osotimehin and to say that we are looking forward to continuing our close cooperation and dialogue with the UNFPA under his leadership.