On 5 June, the United Nations General Assembly elected María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Foreign Minister of Ecuador, President of its seventy-third session — only the fourth woman to hold that position in the world body’s history and the first since 2006. (See Press Release GA/12022.)
Ms. Espinosa has more than 20 years of multilateral experience in international negotiations, peace, security, defence, disarmament, human rights, indigenous peoples, gender equality, sustainable development, environment, biodiversity, climate change and multilateral cooperation. She twice served Ecuador as Minister for Foreign Affairs, as Minister for National Defence and as Coordinating Minister for Natural and Cultural Heritage.
In those capacities, she coordinated the Sectorial Council on Foreign Policy and Promotion, which includes the Ministries of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, Foreign Trade, and the Environment. Ms. Espinosa was also Chair of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China until January, and of the Andean Community.
During the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Ms. Espinosa promoted the adoption of the resolution presented by Ecuador, “Indigenous women: key actors in poverty and hunger eradication”. She was a chief negotiator at the sixteenth and the seventeenth Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and facilitated the adoption of key elements of the outcome document “The future we want” at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012.
As Minister for National Defence, Ms. Espinosa 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.
In 2008, she became the first woman appointed Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations in New York. During that posting, she co-facilitated the Working Group on the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly at its sixty-third session. She also led efforts at the global level towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
As Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ms. Espinosa 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 on Climate Change in Paris.
Ms. Espinosa was the Special Adviser to the President of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution of Ecuador in 2008 as well as 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 the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). She also participated in negotiations on intellectual property, as well as traditional and ancestral knowledge; and supported the Andean Community and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization on strategic management and sustainable development.
Before embarking on 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, the Ford Foundation, the 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 fϋr Technische Zusammenarbeit and Natura Foundation for her research work.
Ms. Espinosa has written more than 30 academic articles about the Amazon region, culture, heritage, sustainable development, climate change, intellectual property, foreign policy, regional integration, defence and security. She is a PhD candidate in Environmental Geography at Rutgers University in the United States. She also holds a master’s degree in social sciences and Amazonian studies, a post‑graduate diploma in anthropology and political science from the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Sede Ecuador, and a bachelor’s degree in applied linguistics from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador.