Thank you Mr. President, and thank you Executive Director Dr. Kanem for the comprehensive report.
This annual session offers an important opportunity for all of us to reflect on the progress made and challenges faced in the implementation of the Strategic Plan 2014 – 2017. Going beyond the last three-year period, UNFPA remains entrusted to fulfil its core mandate to lead the effort to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights (SRH and RR), as well as to advance the health and wellbeing of women and girls, promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, without any of which the SDGs cannot be achieved. In other words, the mandate of UNFPA forms a foundation for the advancement of the 2030 Agenda.
We are encouraged to note the strong progress made against the important goals set out in the Strategic Plan 2014 – 2017, including improved access to sexual and reproductive health services and the continued fall of the newborn mortality rate, even as the world experienced an extremely challenging environment through that period. We urge UNFPA to maintain the momentum of this progress and to advance strong partnerships within and beyond the UN organisations, which is key to boosting efficiency. Efficiency should be enhanced also through improving business processes. In this connection, we look forward to receiving updates regarding the use of common business services and back office structures, as proposed by the Secretary-General. We further invite UNFPA to proactively seek collaboration with NGOs, such as International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), as they may offer comparative advantages in different contexts.
I would like to recall my statement delivered at the First Regular Session held in January, in which I underlined the importance of adapting to local contexts in the implementation of the Strategic Plan, as local realities including demographic trends vary from one region to another. For instance, the Asia-Pacific region is now faced with the demographic challenges sparked by an unprecedented degree of population ageing.
It was in this context that, during the 74th session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), the Government of Japan and UNFPA co-organized a policy-level dialogue titled “Ageing in Asia and the Pacific”, where government and UN representatives and experts exchanged information and ideas concerning the ageing of the population in the region. We believe that it is vital to keep the momentum for discussion and to make conscious efforts toward sensitization on this subject in Asia and the Pacific, which is expected to host two thirds (2/3) of the world’s older people by 2050, and beyond.
Needless to say, policy on population ageing ought to be developed in a gender sensitive way, and the UNFPA has an invaluable role to play. Gender-sensitive policies for the elderly are crucial in response to the shifting demographics in the region, especially in countries that have a higher ratio of elderly women, which is many.
As we open the Annual Session, I look forward to fruitful discussions that will give birth to useful clues for our future endeavors under the Strategic Plan 2018 – 2022.