United Nations (UN) General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa is “looking forward” to her five-day visit to Pakistan, which begins tomorrow (Friday), during which she will hold talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and other Pakistani leaders on global and regional issues. “The president of the General Assembly looks forward to strengthening ties between Pakistan and the UN, promoting multilateralism and continuing her work with Pakistan on the priorities for the 73rd Session of the General Assembly,” Spokesperson Monica Grayley said on January 11 when she announced UNGA President Maria’s January 18-22 visit to Pakistan, her first to the Asia-Pacific region. It will be also the first visit by the senior UN leadership to Pakistan since the advent of the government led by PM Imran Khan. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi, held a detailed meeting with the 193-member assembly’s president last week to finalise her visit. “Our leadership looks forward to having wide-ranging discussions with Madam Espinosa on global and regional issues,” the Pakistani envoy said afterwards. In the course of the talks in Islamabad, she added, the General Assembly president will be briefed on the situation in Indian-held Kashmir. During her visit to Pakistan, the assembly president, who is also foreign minister of Ecuador, will, besides the prime minister, meet with President Dr Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, as well as representatives of the UN and of civil society. The assembly president’s delegation includes her Chef de Cabinet, a senior adviser, a communication specialist, her coordination officer and her personal assistant. Maria, 54, is only the fourth female president of the UNGA in its 73-year history. Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said President Maria will also have an opportunity to meet with women parliamentarians in Pakistan and visit the Centre for International Peace & Stability, which is Pakistan’s Peacekeeping Training Centre. Maria has more than 20 years of multilateral experience in international negotiations, peace, security, defence, disarmament, human rights, indigenous peoples, gender equality, sustainable development, environment, biodiversity, climate change and multilateral cooperation. She has served Ecuador as Minister of Foreign Affairs twice, Minister of National Defence as well as Coordinating Minister of Natural & Cultural Heritage. In those capacities, she coordinated the Sectorial Council on Foreign Policy & Promotion, which includes the Ministries of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, Foreign Trade and the Environment. She also served as Ecuador’s Permanent Representative to the UN and was chair of the Group of 77 and China until January 2018. Spokesperson Grayley said that Maria believes that key world issues require multilateral solutions. The threat to multilateralism as witnessed across the globe drew calls for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, addressing world leaders at the start of the high-level General Debate in September last year, had warned that the world is suffering from a bad case of Trust Deficit Disorder where polarisation is on the rise and cooperation among nations is more difficult. The UN chief underscored that challenges across the globe are growing outwards, while many people are turning inwards. “Multilateralism is under fire precisely when we need it most,” he had said. Published in Daily Times, January 17th 2019.