Malta’s ambassador to the United Nations is on her way to becoming one of just 15 people to sit on the Security Council, the only global entity whose decisions become immediate law in 193 countries.
But Vanessa Frazier is not sitting pretty until next June, when her position is confirmed. She’s actually giving the UN a taste of what a Maltese woman can bring to the table.
She has been elected to chair the Economic and Financial Committee, one of just six committees responsible for setting and implementing the agenda of the UN’s General Assembly.
This is the highest elected UN position held by a Maltese diplomat and by a Maltese woman. The only time Malta held a higher position was when Guido De Marco was elected President in 1990.
To get her position, Frazier was first nominated by the geographical group to which Malta belongs (which includes Western Europe, USA, Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand and Turkey). This was a huge feat in itself.
But Frazier went a step further. Her credentials were so impressive that none of the other geographical groupings contested her candidature, choosing instead to elect her unanimously.
Once her nomination was secure, Frazier urged all groupings to nominate women to her bureau and with the outgoing chair from Nepal, they managed to create the first all-female committee in the UN’s history. (Each committee has a bureau made up of the chair, three vice-chairs and a rapporteur.)
She told Lovin Malta it wasn’t easy to achieve this since all countries have their own experts, but their lobbying paid off.
“I couldn’t force them but I asked them to try and make it happen. If they had a qualified woman, I told them to nominate them.”
“I did it because I wanted us to make a statement. It was another glass ceiling to break. Perception is very important when it comes to gender parity. Younger diplomats are inspired by these moves because once you see someone in a certain position you can visualised yourself in that position more easily.”
But isn’t gender balance more beneficial than an all-female committee?
“It’s very normal to have all-male bureaus since only a quarter of all UN delegates are female. Our of 193 countries, we only have 50 permanent representatives who are women. Countries like France and Germany have never had a woman permanent representative.”
Besides sending a clear message in favour of better female representation, Frazier is excited to leave Malta’s mark on the UN’s work.
“My committee is a very important one. For starters, it contains all the Sustainable Development Goals, so it is our responsibility to make sure we’re on track to achieving our 2030 goals, and that we’re able to finance them. This is the core of the UN General Assembly’s work.”
“We’ll be working on climate and ocean issues that are very much in Malta’s tradition. But we will also cover countries with special situations like issues surrounding the sovereignty of Palestine.”
Her term begins on September 21st, which happens to be Malta’s Independence Day. She will have around three months to negotiate her committee’s mandate and then six months to implement it.
She does not represent Malta in the role so if she has to step down she won’t be replaced by a Maltese diplomat but one of the elected vice-chairs.
But that does not mean she will shy away from tackling issues which impact Malta.
“My priorities will be the eradication of poverty, sustainable development, gender parity, climate change and the safeguarding of the oceans, and vaccine equality.”
Next June, Malta will most likely be elected as one of the UN Security Council’s 15 members, and if so, Frazier will be Malta’s representative. The Council has five permanent members and 10 elected members.
Malta last had a seat in 1983, but submitted a fresh bid in 2011 under Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi’s leadership, in the midst of the Libya crisis.
A round of applause 👏🏼 in the @UN #GAHall for an #AllFemale bureau of the #SecondCommittee at its 76th session to be chaired by the PR of @MaltaUNMission @_VanessaFrazier 🇲🇹 with vice-chairs from 🇩🇴🇪🇷🇵🇱 and rapporteur from🇳🇵 pic.twitter.com/lkjhgliqQL
— Slovakia at the UN (@SlovakiaUNNY) June 7, 2021
Since then, nobody has announced their intentions to contest, which is “almost unheard of”.
“This is a real testament to Malta’s brand in the UN,” Frazier says, adding that only 26 females have sat on the council in 75 years.
Malta would be the only other EU country after France to hold a seat at the Security Council during that two-year tenure.
Frazier is excited to uphold Malta’s tradition of using the UN to focus on the issues rather than gifts and receptions.
“Malta has been fundamental for the UN and the fight against climate change. Most people don’t realise this but we initiated the law of the seas and eventually requested for the climate to be declared a common concern for mankind. This is an incredible tradition for a small country like ours and I intend to continue building on this legacy.”
“It’s time to show what Malta is about,” she says.
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