Costa Rican Christiana Figueres, key figure of the global climate change agreement in 2015 and aspiring leader of the UN, ensures that having a woman leader of the Organization will help humanity advance more quickly.
At the age of 59, Figueres is defined as diplomatic, “stubbornly optimistic,” and successful, the outcome of COP21 on climate last December playing in her favor. Her name is one of the 12 that make up the list of candidates to succeed the South Korean Ban Ki-moon as the General Secretary of the UN.
A first vote will take place this Thursday at the Organization’s headquarters in New York, among the 15 members of the Security Council.
There is an informal consensus in favor of a woman candidate, unprecedented in the history of the UN.
Figueres announced her candidacy just two weeks after she concluded her position as the leader of the Convention on Climate Change.
She defends the opinion that a woman can and should be trusted with the reins of world diplomacy in her hands.
“Over thousands of years, we have prevented humanity from benefiting the power that 51% of us brings to the planet,” she said in an interview in Paris. “Society has been jumping with a single, male foot. We have had thousands of years to invest in the education of men, in their career possibilities and their decision-making power. If you add a second foot – the female foot – to the progress we have made with one foot, we will be able to walk with greater balance, and even more quickly.”
The future requires expertise
Another strong aspect of this woman with short, black hair and steady gaze is her multilateral experience and knowledge of the environmental issues, which she says will be key to the United Nations in the 21st century.
“I did not go to all countries of the world, but to a great majority in these past six years,” she explains. Thanks to the COP21 in Paris, she was able to establish an excellent relationship with France and not be a stranger to the United States and Russia, countries which, together with China and Britain, occupy the five permanent seats of the Security Council, which will have the decisive word.
“Anyone who becomes the General Secretary must understand the urgency with which we have to tackle climate change and meet the goals of sustainable development. If we don’t, we can never hope for peace in the world. The restoration of the balance of resources has to do with human rights, peace and security, and development.”
According to Figueres, those were the three pillars on which the United Nations was born in the last century, and only someone with a globalizing vision will be able to deal with them as a whole.
“I am fundamentally impartial, but I’m not indifferent,” she explains. “I am not indifferent to the pain of the world, nor to injustices or abuses. If it is necessary to make a decision, I do not hesitate to assume a position of leadership, but I’m primarily a person of teamwork and I prefer collective wisdom when it is possible. It takes more time and patience, but allows for better results.”
Among other qualities to mention is her capacity to work, that she says she inherited from her parents. “I work a number of long hours, which can be difficult to understand because I inherited it, it’s in my blood. I am not scared to work,” says the daughter of Jose Figueres Ferer, three times President of Costa Rica.
Among the most-mentioned names in this race are the longtime “outsider,” Bulgarian Irina Bukova, General Director of UNESCO, and the former Slovenian Danilo Turk. They are both from Europe, a region that would correspond to the position according to the regional rotation rules.
But the race remains open to other candidates, especially in case of likely struggle between Washington and Moscow.
In this context also appears the candidacy of the Argentine Chancellor Susana Malcorra, exChief of Staff of Ban Ki-moon.
“I have nothing but admiration and respect for Susana, who always served as a very serious and very respected Chief of Staff,” Figueres said about her rival, but added: “The fact that we were born in the same region should not prevent the Security Council from looking at all of the options before them.”
According to Figueres, her candidacy “does not seek to subtract, but add.” After a positive meeting in the French Foreign Embass on Wednesday, she will travel Thursday to Madrid, before returning to New York for new bilateral meetings.
In the UN, diplomats anticipate that the appointment process will be complex and that it will remain open until at least October, during the home stretch of the presidential campaign in the United States.