The new head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) admitted ongoing problems with financial accountability while calling for a new push for reproductive health services for youth this week.
The new Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, was appointed as Thoraya Obaid’s successor this past November and assumed office in January. Osotimehin comes from Nigeria with a background in medicine and is well known for his sexual and reproductive health advocacy. Pro-life supporters in Nigeria recount his stance against abstinence programs and his support for the abortion drug misoprostol.
In his maiden speech to the executive board of UNFPA, Osotimehin said he is making accountability his number one priority this year. “I will strengthen a culture of accountability throughout the organization and do my best to ensure that UNFPA never receives another qualified audit,” he stated in his speech. The accountability focus comes on the heels of new Republican leadership in the US Congress, which has called for funding cuts to many UN agencies, including UNFPA.
UNFPA has long been plagued with financial accountability woes. Commenting on UNFPA’s current situation, a delegate told the Friday Fax, “This agency’s financial management is now being reviewed with business procedures, which brings to light their lackadaisical management.”
Osotimehin also outlined the new focus UNFPA will be putting on youth. The new UNFPA leadership is offering an “integrated package of sexual and reproductive health, as well as comprehensive sexuality education” to advance reproductive rights and increase contraceptive prevalence. To track their progress, UNFPA is instituting a database to track universal access to reproductive health. Included in the new focus is an emphasis on gender equality, with a “gender marker system.” The gender marker system is intended to track gender empowerment expenditures in the organization.
“These programmes help young people, particularly young girls, to stay in school, stay healthy and free from unwanted pregnancies and HIV, postpone family formation and eventually enter the labor market with skills to earn an income and contribute to economic growth,” said Osotimehin. “UNFPA can help Member States recognize this window of opportunity for healthy and productive new generations.”
Some say that UN development programs hoping to improve third world wealth through “sustainable population” numbers are severely flawed. Critics point out that dropping birth rates often provide a temporary spike in economic productivity, however, as the labor market shrinks over time with declining birth rates, so does the overall economic productivity. Currently, many countries in the west are facing an aging healthcare crisis as the shrinking younger population is called upon to sustain an ever-increasing elderly population.
The fund received $848 million in contributions in 2010, more than three times its annual budget only ten years ago. The top ten regular contributors to UNFPA are the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, United States, Denmark, United Kingdom, Japan, Finland, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland.
UNFPA is best known by abortion foes as the group that helped set up and run the Chinese forced abortion and sterilization policy. For this, UNPFA lost all its US funding during the years George Bush was President.