Topics: Peace and Human Rights
International Relations
Environment and Climate Change
Regional focus: Global
Latin America and the Caribbean
Origin: Ecuador
Fellowship: Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow

María Fernanda Espinosa is an Ecuadorian diplomat, politician, and academic with more than 30 years of experience in international organizations, the Ecuadorian government, NGOs and academia.

Espinosa served as President of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (2018-2019), becoming the fourth woman in history and the first from Latin America and the Caribbean to preside over this body. Previously, she was Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Integration (2007-2008 and 2017-2018), Minister of Cultural and Natural Heritage (2009-2012), and Minister of Defense (2012-2014). She also served as ambassador and permanent representative of Ecuador to the United Nations in New York (2008-2009) and Geneva (2014-2017).

Espinosa is currently acting as commissioner to the Lancet COVID-19 Commission, member of the Global Women Leaders Voices for Change and Inclusion as well as the Advisory Council of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and as Goodwill Ambassador for the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC), among others. Prior to her political and diplomatic career, she worked as academic and advisor on biodiversity, climate and indigenous peoples’ policies.

Espinosa is recipient of numerous scholarships and acknowledgements from the Latin American Studies Association, the Ford Foundation, the Society of Woman Geographers, the Rockefeller Foundation, the German Agency for International Cooperation. The BBC listed her as one of the 100 inspiring and influential women in 2019. For her works of poetry, she was awarded with the National Poetry Prize of Ecuador in 1990.

Espinosa holds a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from the Catholic University of Ecuador, a master's degree in Anthropology and Social Sciences from the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (FLACSO) with a specialization in Amazonian Studies, and completed doctoral studies in Geography at Rutgers University, USA.

Last updated: 2021