New York

10 October 2013

Secretary-General's message to the Friends of UNFPA Gala for the Health and Dignity of Women and Girls [delivered by Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)]

I am delighted to send greetings to all those taking part in this annual Friends of UNFPA Gala – and I thank you for your strong support for the Fund’s life-saving work.

I join Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin in warmly congratulating tonight’s honourees. They offer inspiring examples of how one person can make a meaningful difference in the lives of countless others.

I also applaud UNFPA, which has been a global leader on maternal and child health for decades – and more recently, has driven progress in the Every Woman, Every Child initiative. By scaling up access to family planning especially in countries with the highest rates of maternal deaths, UNFPA has been central to advancing the Millennium Development Goals.

Thanks to the collective advocacy and contributions of partners around the world, maternal deaths were cut by nearly half over the past decade, and the deaths of children were cut by more than 40 per cent. This spared millions of families the trauma of losing a loved one, and it preserved hope and opportunity for millions of women and children.

Now we must push even harder to reach the MDGs by 2015. At the same time, we are preparing a new set of global development goals for the post-2015 period. In this effort, we must keep the needs and rights of women, young people and children at the forefront.

Your gathering is more than a celebration – it is a call to action. As we take inspiration from the many lives that have been saved, let us remember those who still need urgent assistance: the pregnant women with no access to prenatal care, the teenager who must miss school simply because she lacks sanitary supplies, the young girl forced into marriage, the father who fears that his wife, child or both might die during labour.

At this critical moment for international development, let us stay focused on creating a better life for the world’s most vulnerable people. In this way, we can usher in a better future for all.