A writer, poet and a diplomat, Maria Fernanda Espinosa is the first woman ever from Latin America and the Caribbean to preside over the General Assembly.
In this year’s UN General Assembly. Presiding over the much-anticipated event is María Fernanda Espinosa. The Ecuadorian breed is the fourth woman to lead the assembly in its seven-decade-long history.
Ms. Espinosa secured 128 votes against 62 votes obtained by the only other candidate, UN Ambassador Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake of Honduras.
In her acceptance speech, Ms. Espinosa noted that she was the first woman ever from Latin America and a Caribbean to preside over the Assembly. She said she would maintain an open-door policy during her presidency and ‘act as an impartial, objective and open facilitator.’ “As you know, I am also a poet as well as a politician. As such, I am fully aware that no view is useful if we do not see, and no word has value, if we do not listen. I will be ready to listen to you all and work for, and with you,” she said.
While speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters, Ms. Espinosa said she believed the UN was going at a “firm pace” towards “becoming daily, a more relevant, a more efficient, a more transparent, and more democratic organization. I will work with 193 States, hand in hand.” She promised to lead in a way that would “strengthen multilateralism, and to better deliver on the commitments that we have taken.”
Ms. Espinosa had served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, Minister of Defence, and Coordinating Minister of Cultural and Natural Heritage.
In 2008, she was the first woman to be named Permanent Representative of Ecuador in New York, after having served as Ambassador in Geneva. As a writer and poet, Ms. Espinosa has published more than 30 academic articles on the Amazon River, culture, heritage, development, climate change, intellectual property, foreign policy, integration, defence and security. She has also published five volumes of poetry and received the Ecuadorian National Poetry Prize in 1990.
As Minister of National Defence of Ecuador, Ms. Espinosa Garcés participated in debates on women, peace and security, and promoted the creation of the South American Defence School of the Union of South American Nations, among other initiatives.
As Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, she led and supported various negotiation processes at the Human Rights Council. She chaired the work of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Geneva, and at the twenty-first Conference of the Parties (COP 21) on Climate Change in Paris.
Ms. Espinosa was Special Adviser to the President of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution of Ecuador in 2008 and Regional Director (South America) and Adviser on Biodiversity (Geneva) at the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In both positions, she worked for approximately 10 years on various initiatives at WIPO and WTO; participated in negotiations on intellectual property, and traditional and ancestral knowledge; and supported the Andean Community and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization on strategic management and sustainable development.
Before her political and diplomatic career, Ms. Espinosa was Associate Professor and Researcher at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Sede Ecuador. During her time in academia, she received scholarships and grants from the Latin American Studies Association, Ford Foundation, Society of Woman Geographers and the Rockefeller Foundation towards her research in the Amazon. She also received awards from the German Agency for Cooperation, Deutsche Gesellschaft for Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and Natura Foundation for her research work. She is indeed a worthy icon of model, who truly deserves to head the UN General Assembly
The previous women leaders of the Assembly were India’s Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit in 1953; Liberia’s Angie Elisabeth Brooks in 1969 and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain in 2006.
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