Thu, Jun 07, 2018 - Page 7 News List

UN General Assembly elects fourth female president

‘WE MUST DO BETTER’:Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces said she would always be committed to women and girls who struggle for equality and are victims of violence

AP, UNITED NATIONS

The UN General Assembly on Tuesday overwhelmingly elected Ecuadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces as its next president, making her only the fourth woman to lead the 193-member world body in its 73-year history.

She defeated another woman, Honduran Ambassador to the UN Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake, by 128-62 with two abstentions in the secret-ballot vote.

The current assembly president, Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia, announced the results to loud applause, saying: “Frankly, four out of 73 is not a record to be proud of, but I’m glad we are getting ourselves on track.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who defeated several female candidates and continues the male domination of the UN’s top post, echoed Lajcak, saying: “We can and we must do better.”

Espinosa Garces expressed hope that gender parity continues to make progress and 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.”

“I would like to pay a special tribute to the women who struggle every day to access jobs on equal terms, to women and girls who are victims of violence, to girls and adolescents who demand access to quality information and education,” she said. “My commitment will always be to them.”

While the presidency of the General Assembly is largely ceremonial, it is also prestigious.

The world body controls the UN budget, adopts treaties, addresses global issues from poverty to climate change, and passes numerous resolutions that, while not legally binding, almost always reflect global opinion.

It is also the UN organ where countries large and small can speak — and the scene of the annual gathering of world leaders in September.

The selection of the assembly president follows a regional rotation mandated by the world body, and it was the turn of Latin America and the Caribbean to preside over the next year-long session that starts just before September’s global gathering.

By tradition, the UN’s regional groups usually nominate a single candidate who is then rubber-stamped by the assembly.

However, this year the election was contested — as it was in 1991, 2012 and 2016 — according to the UN, because Latin American countries could not agree on a nominee.

Espinosa Garces said after her victory that she will also be the first woman from Latin America and the Caribbean to preside over the assembly.

“I offered an open-door presidency and I will hold to that promise,” she said.

“I am a poet as well as a politician,” Espinosa Garces said. “As such, I am fully aware that no view is useful if we do not see, and no word has any value if we do not listen. I will be ready to listen to you all and to work for you and with you.”

For the first time this year, Lajcak decided to follow a new practice that was also used to choose Guterres.

He invited both candidates to appear before assembly members for two hours on May 4 to present their vision for the presidency, and answer questions from diplomats and civil society representatives.

The issues raised ranged from conflict prevention and financing UN goals for 2030 to ending poverty and sustaining the planet to transparency in the president’s office, UN reforms and gender equality.

Espinosa Garces at the time said that she would focus on “delivery, implementation and accountability” to bring the UN’s work closer to people everywhere and convince them that what the UN does “touches upon their daily lives.”

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