Costa Rican woman replaces Kenya's Mukhisa Kituyi at Unctad

Monday September 13 2021
Rebeca Grynspan, the new UNCTAD secretary-general

Rebeca Grynspan, the new UNCTAD secretary-general. PHOTO | COURTESY | UNCTAD


Costa Rican economist Rebeca Grynspan has become the first woman to head of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) after taking office on September 13.

The former vice president of her country will serve as the UN trade agency's secretary-general for a four-year term.

She succeeds Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, the first Kenyan to head a global UN agency from 2013 to 2021.

Dr Kituyi was appointed the seventh UNCTAD secretary-general on September 1, 2013, and reappointed for another four-year term in July 2017, which began on September 1 that year.

In February this year, he stepped down to return to Kenya to prepare to vie for the presidency in the 2022 General Elections.

Ms Isabelle Durant from Belgium replaced Dr Kituyi in an acting capacity following his departure on February 15.


Ms Grynspan was nominated by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and approved by the General Assembly in June.

“I am honoured to begin work at UNCTAD at a critical time for our world,” Ms Grynspan said.

“Covid-19 has exposed the widespread inequalities and vulnerabilities of the world and the development model. As we recover from the pandemic, we have an opportunity to rebalance the global economy, boost resilience and ensure shared prosperity.”

She called on countries to pursue bold decisions to address unmet trade, finance, investment and technology needs of developing countries struggling to meet both the Covid-19 economic fallout and sustainable development challenges.

UNCTAD will hold its 15th conference in Barbados from October 3 to 7.

“We must take action to transform trade and reshape our global economy to overcome barriers to greater prosperity for all and embark on a sustainable development path that will benefit everyone,” said Ms Grynspan.

Before her UNCTAD appointment, she was the secretary-general of Ibero-American, a regional bloc of 19 countries in Latin America and those of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain, Portugal and Andorra.

She returns to the UN, having previously served as the under-secretary-general of the UN. She is also the ex-associate administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and a former regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the organisation.

In addition to being the vice president of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998, she also held the housing and coordinator of economic and social affairs dockets as minister. She has also served as deputy finance