María Fernanda Espinosa is a diplomat, politician, and academic from Ecuador. She was President of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (2018/19), and served as Ecuador’s minister of foreign affairs, minister of cultural and natural heritage, and minister of defense.
What will you work on at the Robert Bosch Academy?
I will be analyzing gaps and alternatives for a strong and effective global governance to address current challenges including the health, the climate, and the inequalities crises. I will closely assess the key role, shortcomings, and potential of multilateral institutions. I will team up with different coalitions and networks from civil society on several proposals for a much-needed revitalization of the United Nations, drawing from my current position as co-chair of the Coalition for the UN We Need, which is composed of civil society, academic, and non-profit sectors from all regions of the world.
I will also analyze multilateralism through a gender equality lens in order to contribute to ensuring that the rights and empowerment of women and girls worldwide are embedded in efforts to retool the United Nations.
What are the most relevant issues in your field?
The commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations unleashed a global conversation on the future of the organization, and on the need to adapt its current structure and working methods to better respond to current global challenges. The commemoration gave place to an intergovernmental process which concluded with a strong and comprehensive UN75 Political Declaration composed of 12 action points on the most pressing international issues. They include:
- leaving no one behind in efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,
- protecting our planet and addressing the climate crisis,
- building peaceful societies,
- digital inclusion,
- and putting women, girls, and youth at the center of Covid-19 recovery efforts, among other global threats to human and planetary security.
The declaration mandates the UN Secretary General to produce a report to advance “our common agenda” to respond to current multiple and interconnected crises before the end of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly. The report has been presented in September 10th this year and requires strong commitment from states for the follow-up and the active involvement of civil society.
In addition to that, there is a vibrant global conversation about the need to “build forward better” as the world recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic. Discussions at all levels and from different actors are critical for the future of humanity. The questions that are being addressed include how to boost economies while ensuring a green and inclusive recovery through a true ecological transition that reduces staggering inequalities. World leaders are discussing the need for a new social contract and calling to seize this opportunity for a new ecological, economic, and social order.
In sum, we are leaving a moment of reinvention, creativity that includes the need for a new international architecture, a rejuvenated United Nations to effectively respond to the current convoluted global scenarios.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic challenged and shaped multilateral action and institutions?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a litmus test for the multilateral system. It has shown that concerted action, cooperation and solidarity at the regional and global levels are the only way to respond to a global health crisis. It has also ratified the irreplaceable role of the United Nations in providing humanitarian relief and making available resources, protocols, and policy guidance to face the impact of the pandemic.
Covid-19 has also served as a magnifying glass to show the deficits and weaknesses of existing multilateral arrangements. These weaknesses include feeble resource mobilization capacities and a lack of swiftness in responding to an emergency situation with a system-wide strategy. There is also a clear shortage of financial resources under flexible conditions for developing countries, well functioning supply chains and procurement for critical medical equipment, medicines, and more recently, vaccines. We can also add the absence of clear and predictable rules of engagement of the private sector, local governments, and civil society. The good news is the opportunity of rethinking, rebuilding, and improving the multilateral architecture by learning from the Covid-19 pandemic.
What insights for your work do you hope to gain during your fellowship?
I expect to benefit from the work and experience of other Richard von Weizsäckerfellows at the Robert Bosch Academy, and follow closely the commitment of Germany to upholding the principles of international solidarity and cooperation in its leadership role of the Alliance for Multilateralism. I also expect to interact with different German stakeholders and opinion makers, including academics, politicians, members of civil society, German foundations, and public organizations working on global governance issues related to climate change and the environmental crisis, gender equality, and institutional retooling of the international architecture.
What makes Berlin and Germany relevant for your work?
Germany is a key player in current geopolitics due to its prominent role in the EU, and as a member country of the G20 and the G7. It shows strong leadership in climate stabilization, and is a leading voice in defense of an international rules-based order. Germany believes in the importance of concerted action and global leadership to address key contemporary challenges.
Also, Germany has had a decisive role in leading and guiding efforts for a green and inclusive Covid-19 recovery, and has strongly advocated for greater investment in a true ecological transition to deliver on the climate commitments contained in the Paris Agreement and beyond.
In addition, Germany is undergoing a very interesting political transition and I am eager to follow this process closely because of its implications for international politics and the future of the multilateral system.
Moreover, I am interested in Berlin’s rich history. Besides being Germany’s capital, it is the center of public and political debate. It is a unique, culturally vibrant city. It offers an incredible variety of high-quality cultural spaces and opportunities. As a culture hub, it has a wide variety of museums and art galleries. I am very much looking forward to living in Berlin.
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