Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez
Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez '93 is the Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office in Geneva. Ambassador Whyte Gómez will also receive an honorary degree from the Institute during the Commencement ceremony.
On July 7, 2017, Ambassador Whyte Gómez —a career diplomat and 1993 graduate of the Institute’s International Policy Studies program—made history. After months of consultations and two rounds of intense negotiations, she successfully presided over the negotiation at the United Nations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Facing extraordinary time pressure and sometimes contentious debate, Ambassador Whyte Gómez facilitated the adoption of this landmark agreement by a vote of 122 nations in favor, one against, and one abstention.
While the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty (as it is often called) does not include either the existing nuclear weapons states or their closest allies, its negotiation and signature by representatives of 122 nations represents a significant step toward the goal of a world without nuclear weapons—the first formal, binding international agreement to prohibit them.
“We wanted to change the world,” Ambassador Whyte Gómez has said of herself and her 1993 classmates and has described her “great joy” in returning to the Institute 25 years after graduating, saying it feels like “coming home.”
After joining Costa Rica’s Foreign Service as a career diplomat in 1998, Ambassador Whyte Gómez rose to the position of vice-minister of foreign affairs two years later, in 2000. She was the first woman and the youngest person ever to serve in this role, which she held through two successive administrations from different parties. In January she and a group of fellow diplomats involved in negotiating the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty shared in the Arms Control Person of the Year Award given by the international Arms Control Association.
The Student Commencement Speaker information will be posted in mid-October.