María Emma Mejía Vélez

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María Emma Mejía Vélez
Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations
Assumed office
18 February 2014
Preceded by Néstor Osorio
Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)
In office
9 May 2011 – 11 June 2012
Preceded by Néstor Kirchner
Succeeded by Alí Rodríguez Araque
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia
In office
July 1996 – 25 March 1998
President Ernesto Samper Pizano
Preceded by Rodrigo Pardo García-Peña
Succeeded by Camilo Reyes Rodríguez
Minister of National Education of Colombia
In office
July 1995 – July 1996
President Ernesto Samper Pizano
Preceded by Arturo Sarabia Bette
Succeeded by Olga Duque de Ospina
Colombia Ambassador to Spain
In office
President César Gaviria Trujillo
Preceded by Ernesto Samper Pizano
Succeeded by Humberto de la Calle Lombana
Personal details
Born (1953-09-27) 27 September 1953 (age 64)

María Emma Mejía Vélez (born 27 September 1953) is a Colombian politician, diplomat, and journalist. She is currently the Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations to the United Nations in New York. She served as Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations -UNASUR, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Education, and Ambassador of Colombia to Spain. She has been a member of the Foreign Affairs Advisory Commission of Colombia since 1999. Mejía also ran for Vice-President and Mayor of Bogotá.


After graduating from Universidad del Valle and Pontificia Universidad Javeriana as a journalist, Mejía enrolled in cinematography and television studies at the BBC in London, where she later worked in the Latin American Radio Broadcast Service. Her first public post was as the Director the Cinematographic Company (FOCINE) where she successfully achieved greater State support for the Colombian film industry.

In 1990, former President Cesar Gaviria named her as the Head of the Presidential Advisory Office for Medellín, where she gained national recognition for her social work in the most violent territories under the control of the drug cartel of Medellín.

In 1993, Mejía became the first woman to be the Ambassador of Colombia to Spain. In 1995, as the Minister of Education, she designed and implemented the first Colombian Ten-Year Education Plan and issued the Manual of the Child written by the Nobel Prize- winning Gabriel García Marquez. As Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 1998, she was also the first woman to be designated as the Minister in Charge of the duties of the Office of the President. In 1999 she took part in the peace process with FARC and in the special commission for the ELN guerrilla groups.

From 2003 to 2011, Mejía worked as Executive President of Pies Descalzos Foundation, a charity founded by the Colombian singer Shakira and was part of its Board of Director until 2014. In 2011, she was appointed Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations–UNASUR, where she led institutional strengthening through the creation of twelve sectorial committees to address the most relevant issues among the States.

Mejía served as Chief of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission in Paraguay in 2009 and Costa Rica in 2010. In the United Nations she has been Vice- President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the vice-presidents of the 70th session of the General Assembly and currently the Chairperson of the 71st session of the Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural affairs.[1]

Group of Friends in Favor of a Woman Candidate for Secretary-General of the United Nations[edit]

The Group of Friends in Favor of a Woman Candidate for Secretary-General of the United Nations was a cross-regional initiative consisting of 56 United Nations Member States promoting the idea that the time for a woman to hold the highest position at the United Nations had come.

Mejía, in her capacity as Permanent Representative of Colombia, led in the spring of 2015 a group of like-minded countries to form a "group of friends" who would pursue to update the terms of reference for the selection and appointment of the Secretary-General. This goal was achieved through negotiations within the Ad Hoc Working Group for the Revitalization of the General Assembly and its landmark resolution 69/321 "Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly."[2] Adopted by consensus on 11 September 2015, operatives paragraphs 32 and 38 modified the seventy-years old language to explicitly call for "Member States to consider presenting women as candidates for the position of Secretary-General."[3]

In late 2016, the Group transitioned into a new and expanded phase for women leadership at senior level positions in the United Nations, for which it changed its name to Group of Friends for Gender Parity.

Group of Friends for Gender Parity in the United Nations[edit]

In Spring 2015, the Group of Friends in Favor of a Woman Candidate for Secretary-General was established with the intent of promoting qualified female candidates for the role of United Nations Secretary-General (SG).

The collective efforts, voice, and commitment of the Group decisively shaped the process of selecting the new Secretary-General. A historic number of women candidates were nominated, and for the first time, the race for Secretary-General featured more women than men.

The Group now looks to build on this momentum by using its visible platform, and unique and expansive networks, to shine a spotlight where current gender imbalances within the United Nations exist, and where the representation of women can be improved.

At the United Nations, a new stage begins towards the achievement of gender parity. The Secretary-General-designate has committed to “present a road map for gender parity at all levels, with clear benchmarks and timeframes within the next mandate, giving priority to senior staff selection.”

To reflect our new advocacy agenda, we change our name accordingly to the Group of Friends for Gender Parity. The Group is mindful of the strategy and commitments made towards achieving gender parity, particularly in senior positions, laid out in the vision statement and during the Informal Dialogues by the Secretary-General designate. The Group stands ready to support and work with Mr. Guterres to promote women’s participation and advance women’s leadership across the UN system.

In order to achieve full gender parity, and particularly at the senior management level, the Group intends to foster an open discussion on the necessary steps required to realize this goal. The Group emphasizes that the steps taken towards achieving gender parity should be aimed at improving the current imbalance of women in senior leadership and comply with the extensive legal basis within the UN Mandate on Gender Parity in United Nations Leadership.

The UN’s Membership has a crucial responsibility in promoting this noble principle for the advancement of women in our Organization. Realizing gender parity in the UN system remains the fundamental goal of the Group, and a challenge that the UN can achieve through.


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