UN Women – Meeting of the Executive Board

Last updated: 12/6/2011 // This statement delivered during the UN Women Board meeting was delivered by Ms. Ingrid Mollestad, Senior Advisor in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Norway is pleased that this first year has brought us a long way in the direction of building a robust and effective entity for women’s rights and gender equality.

Madame President,

Allow me first to thank The Executive Director, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, for her inspiring and informative statement this morning and for her presentation of the first Institutional Budget. We would also reiterate Norway’s firm support to UN Women and to the global efforts for women’s empowerment and gender equality. 

We are now almost reaching the end of this first year of existence of UN Women. It has been a busy and challenging year for the new organization, for the staff and for its leader Michelle Bachelet.  We thank them for their tireless efforts and enthusiasm during this first year. Our expectations and hopes in UNW were indeed great from the very outset, and we are pleased that this first year has brought us a long way in the direction of building a robust and effective entity for women’s rights and gender equality. 

We would like to congratulate Ms Bachelet and UNW with the Strategic Plan and the inclusive process leading up to it.  In the Strategic Plan we have agreed on an ambitious document spelling out the visions and ambitions for UNW’s work. We are committed to this plan and we would like to be a partner in the efforts to implement it.

The very first Institutional Budget, based on the Strategic Plan, represents a milestone for the organization. This particular meeting of the board is therefore of great importance. The Board will adopt the budget, and thus give the entity a solid foundation for its future work and enable it to deliver concrete results.  This is important not only to UNW and to the members of this board, to all countries, but to the UN system at large, civil society and women all over the world.

We are pleased to note that UNWs first institutional budget proposal has been made in accordance with harmonized results based budgeting and cost classification methodology, used by UNICEF, UNFPA and UNICEF.  This is an important step in the larger budget reform, geared towards making the budgets better tools for management and control, a reform actively supported by Norway.

UN Women presents its first Institutional Budget in times of financial turmoil, in demanding circumstances with many uncertainties regarding its future financial situation. We are pleased that UNW with lucidity has taken this situation into account in the budgeting process, and we appreciate that the budget before us thus is more realistic in terms of expected total contributions for the period than what has been indicated previously.

We congratulate UNW on a 35% increase in voluntary contributions in 2011 as compared to the 2010 contributions to UNIFEM.  We also note that UNW believes that voluntary contributions will continue to develop in a positive manner and a total of USD 700 million is foreseen for the coming two-year period.  We are pleased that Ms. Bachelet this morning was optimistic with regard to future funding. We however believe that the budget as it stands may still be a bit optimistic and would like to hear more on what basis these estimates have been made.

We also salute the ambitions to strengthen fund raising efforts. We would be interested in knowing more about this aspect and on what approach UNW intends to take. It is clear that the donor base will have to increase. We stand ready to discuss how we best together can mobilize resources to this important field of work for the UN.

UNW both should and must be ambitious. UN Women needs to have a more robust field presence, both at the country level and at regional level.  It has a crucial role to play in the UN-system, and needs to carry the necessary weight in order to have full impact.  The opening of 21 new country offices, as planned for in this budget, is a highly ambitious number in addition to strengthening 17 existing offices.  We would in this regard reiterate our view, that UN Women does not need to be everywhere and certainly not everywhere at once. In our view, priority in this phase should be on strengthening existing country presences. The greatest danger, as we see it, is to be spread too thinly across a large number of countries and we would support a careful approach to country level expansion.  Norway would like to see the level of development as a central criteria in this process and further it is our view that support to fragile states and states in transition is critical and should be reflected in the global structure of UNW.

We also reiterate our view that the UNW must work through other UN-organizations and we appreciate the measures taken in this regard, including the System Wide Action Plan.

We have studied with interest the report of the ACABQ and the Management Response of UN Women. We do concur with the comments of the ACABQ in terms of the need for the budget to provide more information on i.a the need for new posts and on the cost recovery aspect. We would underline that it is important that a budget proposal provides the Board with the administration’s best and most realistic estimates.

As UNW is expanding, we would also like to underline the importance of establishing adequate levels of funding for internal control and evaluation functions.

Norway is not interested in micro-management and strongly believes that it is not the role of the board to go into every detail.  A great deal of flexibility must of course be granted to UNW management. However, our feeling is that we could have been provided with some more information in order to get a good grasp of this budget.  A relationship based on confidence and constructive cooperation between UNW and the Board will be based on fully transparent and informative processes and documentation, and alignment to the highest possible standards for responding and following up on comments and recommendations from the ACABQ.

Norway is a friend and staunch supporter of UNW.  We believe the best of friends is one that can also ask critical questions and point to possible improvements. Our remarks are made in a constructive spirit. The organization is at a crucial stage of its development, and we all have the responsibility to make our best to do it right from the very beginning.

We look forward to the coming deliberations and stand ready to approve the IB before us today in a process that we trust will be both supportive and constructive.

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