Remarks at the United Nations Population Fund Segment of the Annual Meeting of the Executive Board

Ashley Bagwell
Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
June 5, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President and, thank you, Dr. Kanem, for your overview of UNFPA’s activities over the past year, including efforts to reform UNFPA’s budget and management functions and its change management process. The agenda this session includes many important topics, especially the work taking place in countries around the world to meet the health needs of women and young people.

We have a shared goal to support the Secretary General’s reform initiative to increase efficiency and effectiveness and work toward a stronger United Nations. My government recognizes change-management is difficult; however, we must meet the highest standards of accountability, transparency, and professionalism. UNFPA should continue its work to adapt to new circumstances and to respond to demands on the ground while ensuring that resources are deployed optimally.

As UNFPA undertakes implementation of its new Strategic Plan for 2018 to 2021, the United States encourages UNFPA to maintain its focus on measurable goals, outcomes, and impact as well as increased investments to better support field-level operations. We urge UNFPA to continue striving for a results-oriented organizational culture with an emphasis on increasing the evidence base for decision-making. This includes increasing the availability of data for monitoring and evaluation, particularly at the country level.

We recognize UNFPA’s efforts to increase program effectiveness, the strategic use of evaluation resources, and the use of evidence in decision-making. We encourage the organization to continue building its evaluation capacity and to strengthen its decentralized evaluation function. This will generate the necessary evidence to allow UNFPA to measure results achieved against strategic priorities.

The United States is proud to be a global leader in the provision of informed and voluntary family planning and maternal and newborn health care. We remain steadfast in our commitment to reducing maternal morbidity and mortality, including in some 25 countries that together account for more than two-thirds of maternal and child deaths worldwide. Since 2008, our work in these 25 priority countries has saved the lives of 4.6 million children and 200,000 women. We know that investing in the health of women and girls has tremendous social and economic benefits. The U.S. is also a leader reaching adolescent girls and women with interventions that directly decrease HIV infection, and are concerned about the increasing prevalence of cervical cancer in the developing world, a completely preventable disease that deserves more attention.

I would like to highlight that the United States will stand against any program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization whenever and wherever it occurs. As we have stated before but must reiterate again, the President has directed for the second year – and our domestic law requires – that U.S. funds not be made available to any organization that supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. We thank UNFPA, our fellow Board members, and other Member States for understanding and respecting our position. And we encourage all governments to preserve and protect the sanctity of life.

The U.S. government continues to champion the protection of women and girls within the humanitarian community, and is committed to addressing the unique challenges they face when displaced by conflict or natural disasters by providing programming tailored to their needs. During and in the immediate aftermath of a crisis we know that inequalities are exacerbated, and women and girls face heightened risks of gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse. We recognize UNFPA’s efforts to mainstream humanitarian action into the new strategic plan and increase resources allocated to this issue.

On the matter of sexual exploitation and abuse, we take seriously our responsibility to ensure staff and humanitarian partners are actively working to protect the populations they serve. The United States is committed to supporting the UN’s zero-tolerance policy, which we have strengthened through efforts in the General Assembly and Security Council. In light of recent events, we urge strengthening of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s six core principles relating to sexual exploitation and abuse. Of course, heightened norms will not be enough. Accountability is key. Reporting must be encouraged and, when allegations of sexual exploitation or abuse are raised, we expect UN agencies to take immediate action to appropriately address the issue. Building on existing actions, comprehensive reviews already undertaken, and the annual Special Measures Reports by the UN Secretary-General, the focus should now expand to necessary institutional and cultural changes, and ensuring a united, system-wide, One UN approach. We expect open and transparent communication with beneficiaries, staff, partners, and Member States about the work of the UN Funds and Programs to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse, and to support victims and survivors appropriately.

While there is an increased focus on sexual exploitation and abuse, UNFPA must remain engaged in efforts to create a safe work environment where there is zero tolerance for harassment and retaliation. UNFPA should continue to look internally at the workplace environment and ensure leaders and policies promote ethical conduct and strengthen safeguards to protect staff. The United States takes allegations of harassment very seriously and continues to be vigilant of how organizations address claims. During the session, we would like to hear more about steps UNFPA has taken in this regard as well as efforts to address underreporting, improving anti-harassment policies and taking swift action against harassers and assailants.

In conclusion, the United States looks forward to continued constructive discussions during this year’s annual Executive Board session. Thank you.