As the first Latin American woman (and fourth woman overall) to be the president of the U.N. General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés closed out the 73rd session last week making history.
During her presidency, the Ecuadorian politician and diplomat was responsible for overseeing the sessions of the General Assembly, hearing arguments, working to address global issues through policy and meet with various leaders around the world.
While an intermediary, she maintained that the people were always her top priority.
“Each and every one of my actions will bear in mind the fact that the main recipients of our commitments and decisions are our people. We are working for them,” she said when she first took the position back in September 2018.
Espinosa Garcés, a fierce defender of the earth, also prioritized issues of environmental justice. With a master’s degree in Amazonian studies and social sciences, in addition to a postgraduate diploma in anthropology and political science, she understood the need to center climate change. During her tenure, she fought to make the U.N. a single-use plastic-free venue. Even more, one of her last guests to speak to the assembly was 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
While her time as president has been noteworthy, Espinosa Garcés said there remains a lot of work to be done. In an interview with Oprah Magazine, she discussed the problem of gender disparity at the U.N.
“You have to twist arms here to make sure that all our panels have gender parity, that the negotiations are equally co-chaired with female ambassadors and male ambassadors,” she told the publication.
A barrier-breaker, fulfilling the role of the 73rd president of the U.N. General Assembly is just one of Espinosa Garcés’ firsts. According to the U.N., she was also the first woman to become a permanent representative of Ecuador to the United Nations in New York. Additionally, her excellency (since that’s the proper way to refer to her – a true reina!) is also a published poet.
Her message to those she has inspired? “You have to have a passion for fixing the world. Be a dreamer.”