Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, a poet and politician from Ecuador is the 73rd President of UN General Assembly. She is the fourth women to hold this position in the history of the UN. She dedicated her election to all the women in the world who participated in politics and paid tribute to women struggling every day to access jobs on equal terms, to those whose who were victims of violence, and to girls and adolescents demanding access to quality information and education.

In her acceptance speech, she offered an open-door policy and to “act as an impartial, objective and open facilitator.” She went on to say, “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 has published five volumes of poetry and was awarded the Ecuadorian National Poetry Prize in 1990.

She has served Ecuador as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, Minister of Defense and Coordinating Minister of Cultural and Natural Heritage. She has also been the Ambassador of Ecuador in Geneva and the Permanent Representative in New York. These experiences have equipped her with direct knowledge of intergovernmental negotiations on human rights, indigenous women and climate change and will help her to carry out her responsibilities in the coming year. In 2009, she was a co-facilitator along with Norway to lead the negotiations for the General Assembly Revitalization. The ensuing Resolution of 2017 called for informal interactive dialogues with candidates for the position of President of the General Assembly for better transparency and inclusivity to the process. And she was elected through this new process.

In a world where more and more leaders are turning to unilateralism or bilateralism, her strategic vision for the 73rd Session of General Assembly is notable: “Dialogue and strengthening of multilateralism as a catalyst for the wellbeing of all persons and a sustainable planet.”   She wants to guide the work of the General Assembly in an open, effective, transparent and inclusive manner and bring the United Nations closer to the people, make its work known and appreciated by global society. She wants to facilitate mobilization of resources and cooperation essential for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. Another area of her focus would be on the Paris Agreement, to strengthen the climate change agenda at the global level.  Her plans to promote adequate accessibility, inclusion of rights based approach and accessibility in GA processes for persons with disabilities to ensure ‘no one is left behind’ is commendable. Other areas she singled out are promotion and protection of human rights and development to reduce inequalities, commitment to migrants, promotion of gender equality, conflict prevention and guiding the UN reform process. A lot to be accomplished during her yearlong presidency! May she garner the support and cooperation of all countries to bring true change to UN from a feminine perspective.

The previous women leaders of the Assembly were Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India in 1953; Angie Elisabeth Brooks of Liberia in 1969 and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain in 2006.

Teresa Kotturan, SCN is the NGO Representative for the Sisters of Charity Federation 


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