Statement by Mr. Iqbal Abdullah Harun, Economic Minister at the 1st Regular Session of the Executive Board of UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS for 2021 Opening of the UNFPA segment (New York, 03 February 2021 10:00-13:00 hrs)

I thank you, Madame President.

I also thank, Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem, for her comprehensive briefing on UNFPA’s global activities, especially on its responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNFPA has been an important development partner for Bangladesh since 1974.  It has contributed significantly to mainstream population management as one of the fundamental pillars of our development, especially putting women and girls to the forefront of our development journey. And it is now playing a critical role in our fight to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank all UNFPA staff in Bangladesh and globally for their dedication and valuable work during this time.

Dr. Kanem, I would like to focus on four specific issues:

First, even before the onset of the pandemic, we were seriously off-track meeting our shared commitments of ICPD program of action. The pandemic has further jeopardized our hard-won gains in this regard. Women and adolescent girls are particularly affected.  The pandemic has also seen a spike in gender-based violence. What lessons did the UNFPA draw from this crisis to be better prepared to tackle such future shocks?

Second, we support an ambitious Strategic Plan for 2022-25. We also encourage you to integrate lessons learned from the pandemic in the development of the plan. Yet we aware of the implementation challenges. How do you plan to overcome the funding gaps and performance challenges imposed by the pandemic to fulfill the key objectives of the strategy? How can the QCPR 2020 and UNDS reform help in this regard?

Third, we see menstrual health and hygiene as a critical health issue of women’s well-being in their entire life cycle. UNFPA has done some good work in this area. Yet ignorance, taboos and stigma prevail high around this issue, especially in the developing world.  We wish to see UNFPA address this issue in its next strategic plan; and to mainstream it more effectively in its programmes.

Finally, quality, up-to-date gender data will continue to be critical for advancing ICPD-POA agenda. A sound database can help identify gaps that can in turn help in designing policy interventions. We wish to see UNFPA help equip national data institutions with the right, cost-effective tools to generate and process gender-sensitive data.

I will rest it there;

I thank you.