Patricia Espinosa | DIA 1987

Secrétaire exécutive de la Convention-cadre de l’ONU sur les changements climatiques (UNFCCC), depuis juillet 2016

 Can you briefly present your career path?

I did my schooling at the Alexander Von Humboldt School in Mexico City, a fully bilingual German school (where, by the way, I also learned fluent English). While still in my teens, I had the opportunity of living for a year in Ahrensburg, Germany, which helped me acquire a full command of German. Such Early contact with foreign languages and foreign cultures was to prove decisive for my eventual career.

I got my BA degree at El Colegio de México, which was then and remains one of the most recognised Mexican institutions of higher education in the area of social sciences and the humanities. There I studied International Relations and confirmed my calling as an internationalist. Later on I went on to do graduate studies overseas and was fortunate to be able to attend the Graduate Institute in Geneva.

"The Institute is a true center of academic excellence."

I joined Mexico’s Foreign Service in 1981. During my early years at the Ministry I was in charge of economic affairs at Mexico’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva (1982-1988). From 1988 through 1991 I worked at the Mexican Chancellery as Chief of Staff to the Mexican Undersecretary for Foreign Relations. I was then appointed Director General for International Organisations (1991-1993). For the following four years I worked at Mexico’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York (1993-1997). I was then appointed Director General for Regional Organisations and Mechanisms of the Americas (1997-1999).

I was promoted to Ambassador in 2000. I served as Mexican Ambassador in Germany (2001-2002) and Austria (2002-2006). I was appointed Foreign Secretary by the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, on December 1, 2006.

Why did you choose to study in the Graduate Institute?

I was drawn to the Institute on account of its strong academic reputation, its interdisciplinary approach and its emphasis both on policy issues as well as theoretical insight. I felt certain that undertaking graduate studies there would allow me to get a better understanding of international affairs and would prove of great value in my diplomatic career.

Which is the most striking souvenir you keep from your years of study at the Institute?

It is hard to say. I hold many dear memories both of Geneva and of my time at the Institute. If I had to single one out, it would have to be the intellectually challenging but rewarding atmosphere that it offers. I think that, in this sense, the Institute is a true center of academic excellence. I must also say that the striking views of the lake are also deeply embedded in my memory…

Have you kept links with Geneva?

Not as much as I would have liked. I have had the opportunity of visiting occasionally. I have, of course, close friends and colleagues who live there, especially in the diplomatic circles.

To what extent what you learned in Geneva is useful to your career?

It is not so much the knowledge I acquired, which of course was useful, but rather the overall attitude towards international affairs that I value the most. Clear and disciplined thinking is always useful. The Institute helped me to develop further the habits of careful analysis and deliberation. And it also allowed me to improve my communication and even my negotiation skills. All this has been of great value to me over the years.

What advice would you give to students wishing to embrace a diplomatic career?

Prepare yourself for a trying and demanding career. Make sure that you acquire a sound working knowledge in a variety of fields, from law to economics and, in today’s world threatened by climate change, even basic science. Today, as in the past, much of the diplomatic work carried out around the world is aimed at changing the lives of people. But globalisation means that our actions, as well as our omissions, have a more immediate and more widespread effect than ever before. This carries great responsibility. Diplomats must commit with resolve to such an important mission.


  • Since July 2016: on 18 May 2016, S.E. Patricia Espinosa has been appointed as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She took office on 18 July 2016.
  • 2013 to 2016: she served again as Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. 
  • 2006 to 2012: Ambassador Patricia Espinosa was appointed Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
  • June 2002 until November 2006: she served as Ambassador to Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia and as Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna, and from 2001 through 2002, as Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany.
  • 1997 until 1999: she was Director General of Regional Organizations of the Americas at the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, National Coordinator for the Rio Group, the Ibero-American Summit, and the Latin America and Caribbean – European Union Summit.
  • 1993 through 1997: she was assigned to the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations in New York.
  • In September 1997: she completed her tenure as President of the 3rd Committee, at the 51st Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
  • 1991 to 1993: she was Director of International Organizations at the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs.
  • 1989 to 1991: she served as Chief of Cabinet to the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs.
  • 1982 to 1988: she was responsible for economic affairs at the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations in Geneva.
  • Since September 16th, 1981: she has been a member of the Mexican Foreign Service, and was promoted to Ambassador in January 2000.

Born on October 21st in Mexico City, Patricia Espinosa was educated at the German School Alexander von Humboldt in Mexico City, and completed one academic year in Ahrensburg, Germany. She graduated in International Relations from El Colegio de México, and continued her postgraduate studies in International Law at the Institute for High International Studies in Geneva. She is fluent in German, English and French.

Patricia Espinosa from graduate institute.