Malta’s success in passing through UN Security Council Resolution 2712 – which calls for “extended humanitarian pauses” in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza – after four failed attempts has, once again, demonstrated its ability to punch above its weight in diplomatic circles.
Such a result highlights the importance of professionalism in Malta’s diplomatic corps and the perception of it being an honest broker.
Malta’s preparation to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council provided a good basis for what came next.
Malta secured 97% of the votes from 190 voting member states, with two abstentions and no invalid votes. Malta required 127 votes to secure a nomination. Malta’s diplomatic representatives have also been voted in as chairs of various Security Council committees.
Malta’s Ambassador to the UN, Vanessa Frazier, called Malta’s election to the Security Council as an opportunity for Malta “to work towards safeguarding the values and principles enshrined in the UN charter at a time when these values and principles are most threatened”.
The focus of Malta’s two-year term – the three pillars of security, sustainability and solidarity – have resonated well with the international community.
At such a historic moment, it is important to appreciate the importance of Malta’s diplomatic corps. Malta is a small country with limited resources, an EU member state situated in a geographic area where instability and conflict are prevalent – it is, therefore, of utmost importance for the country to have a professional diplomatic service.
Many of Malta’s diplomats at the Foreign Ministry have passed through the academic institution that is the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies (MEDAC) at the University of Malta.
Conceived more than 30 years ago as a partnership between the Swiss and Maltese government as a confidence-building mechanism in the Mediterranean region, the academy hosts young diplomats in an intensive one-year full time post-graduate programme, providing among others, simulation exercises in negotiations, protocol and crisis management.
The benefit of having a Mediterranean regional institution in Malta that provides diplomatic training cannot be underestimated. It allows Maltese students to follow a Master’s degree in Diplomatic Studies together with other young diplomats primarily coming from the Southern Mediterranean.
Of the 900 alumni of MEDAC, many have gone on to acquire positions of influence in their countries.
Malta is trusted in diplomatic circles because trust is won in different ways – by its small, unmenacing size, by its adherence to the concept of neutrality, and by the professionalism of its diplomats.
Malta’s foreign policy, under different administrations, has consistently spoken out in favour of peace, dialogue, multilateralism and respect for international law – and it is important that this continues to be the case so that we will carry on performing our role as a bridge-builder whenever possible.
Malta must constantly work towards strengthening its image as an honest broker and invest thoroughly in the professionalism of its diplomatic corps. An achievement such as the UNSC Resolution 2712 does not come from thin air. In fact, it was the first time the UN Security Council had come to a collective view on Israel and Palestine since 2016.
Malta cannot afford to relegate its foreign affairs to a footnote, especially at a time of war, tense political disputes and climate crises.
The only way to do this is to appoint skilled diplomats to the top posts. What our government can ill-afford to do is to to reward its loyal, unqualified henchmen with ambassadorial posts. History has shown us such appointments normally end up in embarrassment.