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Ms. Laura Londen, Deputy Executive Director, Management mission to South Africa

Ms Laura Londen, the Deputy Executive Director, Management (DED-M) travelled to the East and Southern Africa (ESA) region on mission from 11-19 November 2017. The mission, in part to participate in the Regional Planning Meeting (RPM), engage the South Africa Country Office & its partners, was followed by a field visit to Ethiopia. The overall objective of the mission was to familiarize the DED-M with the work of UNFPA in support of member states in the region with a specific focus on programme results, operational challenges and in a context of the UN development system.  An outcome of the mission was the enhanced appreciation of expectations of, cooperation given, opportunities and challenges of UNFPA with governments, civil society, beneficiaries and UN Agencies in a Least Developed Country (Ethiopia) and Middle-Income Country (South Africa) context.

Reception lunch with Strategic Partners

The SA Country Office hosted a luncheon with key UNFPA partners in the country at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. Twenty partners from government departments, development agencies, civil society organisations and UN family honoured the invitation. Introductions followed the brief yet heart- warming welcoming words by Officer- In Charge (OIC), Mr Barnabas Yisa. He welcomed the DED to the country, and hoped her stay would be pleasant and a productive one. The OIC further welcomed the partners gathered and was delighted that they could avail themselves at a short notice. A message of welcome to the DED by the UNICEF Representative, Mr Herve Ludovic De Lys, speaking on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator, followed.

Mr Jacques van Zuydam, Chief Director Population and Development at the Department of Social Development and a long serving civil servant in the department, noted that he had previously been fortunate to host several UNFPA ED’s and that it was always a pleasure doing so. He advanced the department’s commitment to promoting the ICPD agenda and ICPD POA. The Department of Health official present spoke of the excellent work that is supported by UNFPA in the two districts of focus in KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape and concluded her message of support by stating that "we appreciate the work done together with UNFPA & we are looking to further engagements in the field”. A representative from Statistics South Africa informed all that they were going digital with the census count, and stated that they’ll continue to collaborate with UNFPA.

Ms Sandra McCardell, HE High Commissioner of Canada spoke of the focused direction their support is geared towards on women programmes. While Ms Celia Julin, HE Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden was happy to be present at the luncheon with such strategic partners. She noted that this small group gathered for the luncheon is a good example of how development partners, civil society and government need to work together, but on a larger and coordinated scale. Young people were represented by two Youth Advisory Panel members, who thanked UNFPA for its efforts in improving youth participation; they also reiterated the importance of participating meaningfully in the programmes that are designed for them.

Providing an apt response, Ms Londen appreciated the core donors and government partners present. She informed of the recently adopted UNFPA Strategic Plan for 2018- 2021 focussed on the transformative results of the organisation. The lunch came to an end with the OIC thanking all for coming and engaging with the DED.

Meeting with Country Office Staff

Following the lunch with partners, Ms Londen proceeded to the South Africa CO to interact with the staff and have robust discussions with the team. As the UNFPA Executive Board has approved a new Strategic Plan in the 3rd quarter of 2017, and country offices are expected to translate the plan into concrete result oriented programmes, it was only natural that the SA staff engaged the DED on concrete elements of the plan in order to identify implications relating to programming and operations for the country office.

She described the transformative results that will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and, in particular, to good health and well-being, the advancement of gender equality, and the empowerment of women and adolescent girls, with a focus on eradicating poverty. Ms Londen informed staff that  strategies introduced in the strategic plan are evidence-based and take into account the lessons learned from previous plan cycles and that they are designed to further enhance organizational effectiveness and efficiency and United Nations system-wide coherence, as well as strengthen the UNFPA integrated results and resources framework and the UNFPA business model.

Staff were also keen on learning more about the new branding strategy of the organisation and were excited to engage her on the identity and tagline:  “UNFPA: the United Nations reproductive health and rights agency”. It was a successful visit enjoyed by all.