As delivered by Carolyn Schwalger, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 1 February 2017.

Mr President

New Zealand joins others in congratulating UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Osotimehin on his leadership over the past year. It has been another important year for UNFPA, which produced strong development results and made a meaningful difference in the lives of women and girls in developing countries. Over the past year, UNFPA also responded effectively to a large number of humanitarian crises, including in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, in response to Boko Haram, and in our own Pacific region.

UNFPA also continued to work tirelessly to ensure that the importance of sexual and reproductive health rights and services, maternal health, and eliminating discrimination and violence against women and girls received appropriate recognition in major international forums and processes such as the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR).

New Zealand is pleased to be back as a member of the Executive Board in 2017, in what will be a critical year for UNFPA and for the Board. In particular UNFPA and the Board will be engaged intensely in the development of a new Strategic Plan to guide UNFPA’s global work and organisational priorities for 2018 to 2021. 

The Board will also be asked to approve a range of new country programme documents this year, and in this regard we intend to take a particularly close interest in UNFPA’s plans for the multi-country Pacific programme.  New Zealand values the important role played by UNFPA in the Pacific region and in Small Island Developing States (SIDs) more broadly.

New Zealand strongly endorses the vision and mandate of UNFPA. This aligns closely with New Zealand’s own international development policies and priorities and especially the importance we accord to improved maternal health, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and to human rights. New Zealand values the critical role played by UNFPA in contraceptive provision and the capacity strengthening related to this, in reducing maternal mortality and unintended pregnancies. In 2014 – 2015, UNFPA’s contraceptive procurement work, for instance, prevented over 63,000 maternal deaths and some 23 million unintended pregnancies. 

We value too your essential work in combating child marriage and the misery associated with genital mutilation and similar abuses. With 39,000 girls under 18 entering marriage each day; pregnancy and childbirth-related complications the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 and; about a third of all women suffering gender-based violence at some point within their lifetime, it is obvious that the work of UNFPA remains absolutely essential.

New Zealand also welcomes the increasing attention being accorded to sexual and reproductive health rights and services, and the other needs of women and children in humanitarian crises.

It is incumbent on all of us – donors and programme countries – to give UNFPA the political and financial support it needs to make the world a better place for the women and girls it is serving. Pragmatism not slogans must prevail. 

New Zealand will engage in the months ahead on the Strategic Plan but let me please use this opportunity to make a number of observations. We support the use of country classification criteria based on needs and capabilities to determine the nature of UNFPA support to individual programme countries. It is however important for the development and application of these criteria to reflect the varying needs and capabilities of the large number of countries covered by the multi-country Pacific and Caribbean programmes.

We are conscious progress under some of the outputs in the current Strategic Plan has been more modest than sought. We hope the new Strategic Plan will help UNFPA boost achievement in these areas.

Turning to organisational performance, it will be important for the Plan to demonstrate how UNFPA intends to build on the good progress achieved under the current strategic plan. We encourage the active use of project quality standards; joint programming and shared services; the quality of evaluations; and the use of evaluation findings to help inform future programming.

Further steps to strengthen audit performance, including in the management of national implementing partners, would also be welcome.

Continued progress in these areas will help boost the effectiveness and impact of UNFPA’s work, contribute to greater efficiency, and reduce transaction burdens on countries.    

In conclusion, Mr President, New Zealand will continue to stand by, and support, the Executive Director and his team in the implementation of UNFPA’s mission.