Globe, Latin America, United Kingdom

Peace, security and human rights: the agenda of Latin American women in the UN

With María Fernanda Espinosa recently taking office and assuming the presidency of the UN General Assembly, there are two Latin American women in top positions at the multilateral organisation.


María Fernanda Espinosa. Photo: Wikipedia

Ibis Frade


The other woman is the Chilean ex-president, Michelle Bachelet, who started her mandate for the next four years as High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights on 1st September.

Both female diplomats arrived at their new posts with important careers in international politics and with numerous years dedicated to the work of the UN.

The Senior Management Group of the multilateral organisation now includes 24 women and 20 men, said the Secretary-General António Guterrez, who, since his arrival in his position, promised to work hard to achieve gender parity at different levels.

The Ecuadorian diplomat inherits several pending issues from decades ago in the largest body of the UN, such as the promise made to Palestine about the creation of its free State and sovereignty, and Puerto Rico’s independence requested by the Special Committee on Decolonisation.

Michelle Bachelet. Photo: Wikipedia

Following her election in June, Espinosa told Prensa Latina that the Israeli-Palestine conflict has been difficult to resolve for decades and needs greater political commitment from the member States.

She then explained that this issue is a central topic for the Security Council, and the General Assembly, and that there are dozens of resolutions adopted, but the big challenge is achieving their compliance and implementation.

“We are lacking political commitment from the majority of countries to tackle this issue, as without commitment from all parties, it will be impossible to find a solution”, she said.

The diplomat has said that issues such as gender parity and female empowerment must also be well-represented on the General Assembly’s agenda. “Women and girls are among the most vulnerable population groups in conflict situations, and we need to ensure their protection”, she stated.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the architecture of peace and security, climate action and migratory issues figure among the priorities of her mandate.

Resiste Mapuche. Foto de Esteban Ignacio

Espinosa, who was the first female ambassador for Ecuador to the United Nations in New York, and also held that position in Geneva, assumed the General Assembly presidency on 17 September, in a moment considered critical with a lack of consensus and an increase of conflicts in the global arena.

The Chilean ex-president, Michelle Bachelet, has similar challenges ahead of her in her leadership of the UN Human Rights Council, whose general headquarters is located in Geneva.

Bachelet, aged 66, was the first woman to serve as president in Chile and the first female leader of UN Women, and takes up this position at a time of serious consequences for human rights as hatred and inequality are increasing.

Foto: Wikipedia

Twice president of Chile (2006-2010 and 2014-2018), a paediatric doctor by trade, she was imprisoned and tortured during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, and as a result she had to go into exile.

Her father, the then-general Alberto Bachelet, was one of those who rebelled against Pinochet’s coup d’état, was put in prison because of it and experienced torture first-hand, which finally ended his life in 1974.

However, while some have applauded the Chilean ex-president’s courage in opposing the dictatorship, others have reproached her relationships with left-leaning Latin American leaders, who are continuously targets of attack by Western powers. In an interview published in Chile by the satirical media, The Clinic, Bachelet made clear her sympathies with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, her former counterparts from Brazil.

According to a video posted on Twitter shortly after learning of her appointment as High Commissioner in the UN for Human Rights, she is very committed to “a great task that seeks to give well-being and dignity to all people”.

Photo: Pixabay

Bachelet is the first Latin American woman to take on the role of High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights, and the fourth woman to lead this office, established in 1993. And Espinosa is the first Latin American woman to assume the presidency of the General Assembly and the fourth woman to occupy this position. (PL)

(Translated by Donna Davison – Email:

Share it / Compartir:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *