María Fernanda Espinosa
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador
Former President of the UN General Assembly
Academic, diplomat, politician, and poet. Linguist graduated from the Catholic University of Ecuador. Holds a master’s degree in Anthropology and Social Sciences from the Latin American Social Sciences Institute with a specialization in Amazonian Studies and completed doctoral studies in Geography at Rutgers University.
Vast experience in multilateral diplomacy, international political affairs, and public policies, serving as advisor in biodiversity, climate, and indigenous peoples’ policies (1999-2005), and later as regional director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature UICN (2005-2007); as Minister of foreign affairs, trade and integration (2007-2008 and 2017-2018); as ambassador and permanent representative of Ecuador to the United Nations in New York (2008-2009) and Geneva (2014-2017), and as Minister of Natural and Cultural Heritage (2010-2012).
As Minister of National Defense of Ecuador (2012-2014) oversaw the Armed Forces and the national defense and security policies, leading national efforts in the fight against organized crime and coordinated operations in emergency situations.
With a two-thirds vote, the United Nations General Assembly elected her as President for the 73rd Session (2018 – 2019), becoming the fourth woman in history and the first from Latin America and the Caribbean to preside over this body since its foundation in 1945.
Before starting her political and diplomatic career, Ms. Espinosa was Associate Professor at the Latin American Faculty for Social Sciences, where she established the Program on Socio-Environmental Studies. She has over 50 academic articles and publications, including several works of poetry that included the National Poetry Prize of Ecuador 1990.
Espinosa received the 2019 Rehabilitation International Award for Outstanding Achievements in innovation “for her Innovative work in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities globally” and was declared by the BBC as one of the 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2019.
In 2020 received the Sundance Film Festival Women’s Leadership Award. In October 2021, she received the “5th Sun Award” from FILAC for her “outstanding contribution to advance the agenda of the rights of Indigenous Peoples” and the Brian Urquart Award from the UN Association of the United Kingdom, for her “Distinguished Service to the UN”.
She is currently fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, working on international global order, multilateralism, and UN reform.