UNFPA deputy executive director ends his first official visit to Egypt

Ahram Online , Monday 21 Jun 2021

Petersen’s visit came at an opportune moment, as the Egyptian government embarks on an ambitious newly endorsed accelerated National Action Plan for the Development of the Egyptian Family

UNFPA deputy executive director Ib Petersen in a meeting with President of the National Council for Women Maya Morsy

Ib Petersen — the United Nations assistant secretary-general, United Nations Population Fund deputy executive director, and Danish Ambassador — conducted a visit to Egypt to understand the population programme in Egypt and discuss how UNFPA can further support the government of Egypt to achieve its 2030 agenda

Petersen has been appointed as assistant secretary-general by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in June 2020.

He recently served as director for the Department of Migration, Conflict, and Stabilisation of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has over 30 years of experience within the spheres of bilateral and multilateral affairs and development. 

Petersen visited Egypt from 13 to 17 June and held meetings with Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed, Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala El-Said, Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine El-Qabbaj, Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat, and Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhy.

He also met the President of the National Council for Women, Maya Morsy, as he participated in a meeting with the National Committee for the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), headed by the National Council for Women and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, in light of the UNFPA’s joint efforts with the government of Egypt to eradicate FGM and child marriage. Petersen also paid a visit to the anti-violence against women coordination unit established by the UNFPA in the National Council for Women.

A reception was also held in his honour as well as to announce actress Amina Khalil as UNFPA Egypt’s Honorary Ambassador. The event brought together Minister of International Cooperation Al-Mashat, General Ismail El-Far, Director of the Central Administration for Training and Projects — on behalf of the Minister of Youth and Sports Sobhy — President of the National Council for Women Morsy, along with several ambassadors and eminent figures from civil society, the private sector, and the media.

Another highlight of Petersen’s programme was a conversation with his Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the Sea of St. Mark, and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb. 

Working with faith-based organisations is essential for the UNFPA, since religious leaders and community leaders play important roles in people’s lives and wellbeing. 

Petersen’s visit came at an opportune moment, as the Egyptian government embarks on an ambitious newly endorsed accelerated National Action Plan for the Development of the Egyptian Family, led by the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development.

He discussed the programme with different ministers, since it is a multi-sector programme, with women empowerment at its heart. 

He discussed ways the UNFPA can best support Egypt in implementing this action plan and was interested in seeing special attention given to young people and adolescent girls in other programmes like the Decent Life Presidential Initiative, among others. 

“All the ministers I’ve met are extremely committed to the government’s priorities when it comes to population and gender equality,” Petersen said, “we have a lot of opportunity to use that space now.”

He also paid a visit to a community centre operated by CARE International, a long-time partner of the UNFPA in the fight against harmful practices, where he attended different activities organised by YPEER, the UNFPA’s youth leadership network.

“It is always a highlight to meet young people on the ground, who showed us how they are working with communities,” he pointed, “It is great to see people who are young and engaged.”

Currently in its tenth programme cycle (2018-2022), the UNFPA’s programmes of intervention are aligned with national development priorities outlined in the National Action Plan on Egyptian Family Development, as well as Egypt’s Vision 2030 and the National Population Strategy. 

The Interventions aim to enhance reproductive health and family planning services, raise awareness through innovative methods with communities and young people, as well as address social norms around family size and violence against women and girls.

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