Rebeca Grynspan of Costa Rica was appointed the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on 13 September 2021.
She is the first woman in the organization’s history to hold this position. A renowned advocate of human development, Ms Grynspan has a substantive track record in government, in the United Nations system and as an economist. She has been repeatedly called on to help focus the world’s attention on key issues such as the reduction of inequality and poverty, gender equality and South-South cooperation as a means of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
She was elected Vice-President of Costa Rica and held office from 1994 to 1998, also serving as Minister of Housing, Minister Coordinator of Economic and Social Affairs and Deputy Finance Minister. Prior to her appointment at UNCTAD, she was Secretary-General of the Ibero-American Conference from 2014 to 2021, chairing intergovernmental processes through regular summits of Heads of State and Government of the organization’s 22 countries.
At the United Nations Development Programme, from 2010 to 2014, she was Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Associate Administrator, following on her previous role as Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean from 2006 to 2010. Between 2001 and 2006, she served as Director of the Subregional Headquarters in Mexico of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ms Grynspan has contributed to key global and United Nations initiatives. In 2021, she was appointed a member of the High-level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response of the Group of 20 and named Special International Adviser to the newly created Economic and Social Council of Argentina by the President of Argentina. She has been a member of the International Labour Organization’s Global Commission on the Future of Work, a member of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, comprising prominent international partners and co-chaired by the Government of Haiti and United Nations Special Envoy and former President of the United States of America Bill Clinton, and a member of the Steering Committee of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement under the United Nations Children’s Fund. She was a member of the United Nations High-level Panel on Financing for Development and served on the United Nations Millennium Project’s task force on poverty and economic development.
Ms Grynspan is a former member of the Governing Council of the Society for International Development, a global network of individuals and professionals at the forefront of development, and of the Advisory Board of the Expansión International Economic Forum 2021. From 2014 to 2020, she chaired the Board of Trustees of the International Institute for Environment and Development, a key global organization at the forefront of development and environmental policy research. She is a former trustee of the Complutense Institute for International Studies of the Complutense University of Madrid. In 2014 and 2015, she was identified as one of the 50 leading intellectuals of Latin America.
She was recognized as one of the 100 most powerful women in Central America by Forbes magazine in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. She received
the Forbes Award for Excellence (2017), the Gumersindo de Azcárate Award (2020) and the Woman of the Year Award from the Women in a Legal World initiative (2020).
In 2019, the Government of Spain conferred on her the highest civilian honour, the Grand Cross of the Order of Alfonso X the Wise and, in 2021, the
President of Portugal awarded her the Grand Cross of the Order of the Infante Don Henrique. In 2020, she received the Aquí Europa–Vocento Award as a Latin American personality for her outstanding contribution to strengthening Europe–Latin America relations.
Ms Grynspan holds a degree in economics from the University of Costa Rica and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Sussex. She was awarded a Doctorate honoris causa each from the University of Salamanca, The University of Extremadura and the European University of Madrid in recognition of her outstanding professional achievements.