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U.N. Elects First Latin-American Woman to Be President of General Assembly

Ecuador's Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés has been elected to be the president of the United Nations General Assembly.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, and President elected of seventy-third session of the United Nations General Assembly. She will be the fourth woman to hold the post. Ms. Garcés addresses the General Assembly following her election. (UN Photo/ Loey Felipe)

After more than a decade of male General Assembly president's, the president-elect dedicated her election to “all the women in the world who participate in politics today and who face political and media attacks marked by machismo and discrimination.”

This morning, the United Nations voted for Ecuador’s Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés to be the next president of the General Assembly of the 73rd session. She is now the fourth woman to ever hold the position.

During today’s ceremony, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the deficiency in women elected to the position:“It has been more than a decade since a woman has served as President of the General Assembly, when Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa of Bahrain was President of the 61st session. We have to go back decades further to find the other two women to have occupied the post: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India for the eighth session, and Angie Brooks of Liberia for the twenty-fourth. I believe, as the President said, we can and must do better than a record of four women in 73 years, and two in the past half century.  No woman from my own continent, both Western or Eastern Europe has ever held the job. May today’s choice pave the way for accelerating the progress towards gender equality, within and beyond the United Nations.”

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés speaking about the crisis in Venezuela (via twitter).

This year, it was Latin América and the Caribbean’s turn to nominate the president of the General Assembly. The race was between Ecuador’s Espinosa Garcés and U.N. Ambassador Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake of Honduras. In the end, Espinosa Garcés won with a vote of 128 to 62. She will be assuming her position in September, taking over Miroslav Lajcak, who was Slovakia’s foreign minister. The president of the General Assembly’s role is largely procedural, yet still carries a high profile.

The president-elect dedicated her election to “all the women in the world who participate in politics today and who face political and media attacks marked by machismo and discrimination.” 

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