In June, the 193-member United Nations General Assembly, elected Ecuadorean Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the President of its 73rd session. Ms. Espinosa is only the fourth woman to hold that position in the history of the world body, and the first woman ever from the Latin America and the Caribbean region to preside over the Assembly.

In his congratulatory remarks, Secretary-General António Guterres introduced her as an experienced diplomat and politician who understands “the need to cooperate when addressing current global challenges.”

In addition to serving as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, Ms. Espinosa has also been the Minister of Defence and Coordinating Minister of Cultural and Natural Heritage of her country.

She begins her duties in the Assembly’s top job, on Monday afternoon, when she takes the historic gavel from Miroslav Lajčák, the President of the 72nd session.

Speaking at the UN Headquarters, in New York, after her election in June, she promised to lead the Assembly in a way that strengthens multilateralism and better delivers on its commitments. UN News spoke with Ms. Espinosa before taking office and asked her what her priorities were for the 73rd session.

The Interview

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe: María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, then Minister of National Defense of Ecuador, speaks at a General Assembly debate on ensuring peaceful and sustainable societies in April, 2014.

UN News: If you must choose one matter – one that people will remember about you. What do you think will be the pillar of your presidency?

Ms. Espinosa: I think that perhaps three keywords: the “D.A.R.E” acronym: Delivery, Accountability, Relevance, and Efficiency. I think that this is about housekeeping and improving the way we deliver to the world. That is one thing.

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And perhaps the second thing: the “lema” for this session – the theme for this session – is making the United Nations relevant to all people. Bringing the UN closer to the people and the people closer to the UN – bringing a people-centered approach to our work.

UN Photo/Loey Felipe: Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés of Ecuador, newly-elected President of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, addresses the Member States.

UN News: How does it feel to be the first Latin American women to be the President of the General Assembly?

Ms. Espinosa: I think it is both an honor and a great challenge. Us women, when we are in positions of power or positions with high responsibilities, we have to deliver double. I think that in a world that is still a male-driven world, it is a huge challenge because you have to prove the world that you are able, that you can deliver, that you can do things equally, you know, in a good way.

So, you have to be efficient, you have to prove yourself, and you have to also represent women from around the world, not only Latin American and Caribbean women, but women that are suffering for one reason or another because of discrimination, because they are victims of conflict, women and girls, because they cannot fulfill their dreams, because they live in contexts or situations that are violent and that really threaten their rights as human beings.

There is a lot to do, and I am extremely proud to be the first woman, Latin American Caribbean woman, to have the privilege to lead the General Assembly.


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