Ecuadorian Maria Fernanda Espinosa to Chair UN General Assembly

maria fernanda from ecuador
The Ecuadorian diplomat will take office in September. (Photo taken from http://www.elciudadano.gob.ec).

The foreign minister of Ecuador will become the first Latin American woman to hold this position

The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, will be soon the first Latin American woman to head the UN General Assembly, a position for which she was elected this June with 128 votes.

With that support, the first Latin American female president of the largest UN agency will take office in September, a post currently held by Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak.

Although the candidacy of the Ecuadorian was launched just a few months ago and generated many frictions with Honduras, whose proposal was announced earlier, Espinosa’s experience and control in May’s interactive dialogue ended up convincing many people.

Now the transition process begins and Espinosa already see her mandate’s challenges and priorities in the 73rd session.

In an exclusive interview with Prensa Latina, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister said that issues such as gender parity and women’s empowerment should be certainly on the agenda.

One of my responsibilities in the next session will be to ensure that the political and economic empowerment of women is a constant throughout the work, she stressed.

It is an honor for me to be the first Latin American female President of the UN General Assembly, but also a great responsibility: it is fundamental that women in a decision-making position have a performance with added value, she said.

‘It’s not about doing only our part, but demonstrating that women in spaces of power can make a difference.’

The issue of gender equality should also permeate all the issues addressed in the General Assembly, although there will be specific debates in that regard, it is important that it is always present, she added.

It is a fact that women and girls are among the most vulnerable population groups in conflict situations, and we must ensure their protection, she stressed.

On the other hand, Espinosa highlighted that Ecuador has currently the privilege of representing all Latin America and the Caribbean’s countries in the 73rd session: which entails a great challenge.

Whoever heads the General Assembly has to lead and coordinate the work of the 193 UN member states, and it is clear that there are certain issues in the region coinciding with the 73rd session’s priorities, she said.

She explained that this is the case with the 2030 Agenda and the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Several of these points will be evaluated soon, such as the economies’ ability to generate sufficient and decent jobs, with special interest in young people, she said.

Another issue to be discussed is quality education, a very important aspect for girls and adolescents because there are many inequalities in access possibilities, she pointed out. Meanwhile, several aspects of the UN reform process are essential for Latin America, such as peace and security architecture and the new design in development’s pillar, she estimated.

Both seek to establish a greater presence of the United Nations in the territory and be more connected to those places where the teams operate, she explained.

For example, she mentioned the presence of the UN resident representatives in national offices so they can report directly from the territory.

According to her, this will be a huge gain and will allow the agencies of the multilateral body to operate in harmony with the countries’ needs.

The negotiation process must still be concluded and then the UN General Assembly will be responsible for accompanying, motivating and facilitating the implementation of these changes, she said.

Another reform that has not yet occurred and generates expectations among the UN member states is that of the Security Council. In that sense, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister explained that this task has been carried out for more than 20 years and is progressing slowly.

Ten years ago a resolution was adopted referring to an intergovernmental process for that reform: we need to evaluate what the progress, depth and speed of these actions are, she planned.

But everything will depend on the political will of the States, the role of the General Assembly’s Presidency is only to facilitate and accompany the projects, the pace depends on the 193 member countries, she clarified.

Climate action, three years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, will also be among the 73rd session’s priorities: to determine what we have achieved and what the major challenges are will be vital for small island states, such as those of the Caribbean, she said.

Likewise, the Global Pact for Secure, Ordered and Regular Migration is crucial for the Latin American region. That’s why, the current Ecuadorian Foreign Minister hopes that their negotiations will successfully conclude and that it will be finally adopted in December.

Espinosa’s agenda is also focused on the Palestinian issue, a conflict that has been difficult to resolve for decades and that demands greater political will from the member states, she estimated.

As explained by the Ecuadorian diplomat, this issue has been very much discussed both in the Security Council and in the General Assembly, and there are dozens of adopted resolutions, but the great challenge is to achieve their compliance and implementation.

We need most countries’ political will to address the issue, because without the commitment of all parties it will be impossible to find a solution, she insisted.

Climate change, migration and the Palestinian issue are in the limelight, she summarized.

In response to a Prensa Latina’s question about the cut made by the United States to the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister noted that ‘financial issues are the mirror and reflection of political priorities.’

In Espinosa’s opinion, the situation of the Palestinian refugees and that of millions of refugees around the world remains among the UN’s priorities and stands out among the issues of global co-responsibility.

It is also necessary to achieve a Global Pact for Secure, Ordered and Regular Migration, which serves as a reference frame and guarantees respect for the human rights of people in a mobility situation, she said.

Moreover, everything indicates that the intergovernmental negotiation process of the three pillars of the UN reform will conclude in this session of the General Assembly, unless there is disagreement on budgetary issues, she affirmed.

Then it would extend perhaps a little more, although we hope that will not happen, she stressed.

The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, who was the first Ecuador’s woman ambassador to the United Nations in New York and also held that position in Geneva, has more than 20 years of international experience and a lot of energy ahead.

Nevertheless, she will assume the General Assembly’s Presidencyat a time considered critical due to the absence of consensus and the increasing conflicts in the global scenario.

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