The role of diplomacy in the public service | Christopher Cutajar

The Permanent Mission of Malta to the United Nations in New York is currently responsible with overseeing Malta’s term on the United Nations Security Council

By Christopher Cutajar

The role of diplomacy in the Public Service consists of several elements, be it diplomatic, consular or protocol, together with the day-to-day running of the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade (MFET) itself. One must also not forget the 42 diplomatic missions which Malta has across the world, where a significant number of Maltese diplomats and officials are posted to perform their diplomatic duties.

One of such missions, is perhaps currently under the spotlight more than others. This is the Permanent Mission of Malta to the United Nations in New York, currently responsible with overseeing Malta’s term on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Lots of preparatory work took place throughout recent years in the build-up towards the UNSC elections of last June, during which Malta was elected by other UN members to serve on the UNSC for the years 2023 – 2024, 40 years after Malta last served on such prestigious international body. Indeed, the UNSC is the most important international body for the promotion of peace and security, and is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions on member states. Malta has chosen security, sustainability and solidarity as the three pillars on which it aims to build its work during its two-year mandate.

Malta’s election to the UNSC was a testament to the work we have been conducting through an assertive foreign policy which does not hide behind its neutrality to rest on its laurels. Instead, Malta is seen as a pro-active advocate for peace, security and justice.

While being a unique opportunity to showcase our country’s abilities, this is also a massive task which puts more responsibility on Malta’s shoulders, resulting in a substantial increase in the workload as Malta now has to take the lead on certain dossiers. To cope with such demand, more human resources at Malta’s Permanent Mission in New York were allocated, both in terms of diplomatic officials and locally engaged personnel. At Head Office, the Directorates-General responsible for Global Issues and for Political and External Relations respectively, were also strengthened through the engagement of second secretaries, senior policy officers and policy officers. The officials being directly involved also undertook several training courses in different aspects to enhance their skills and meet the necessary requirements for this role. Such human capital is deemed crucial in achieving Malta’s objectives, and MFET is committed to continue investing in its greatest asset, its workforce.

Our small size allows us to be quick and nimble, which makes us efficient in the work of large multilateral institutions such as the UN. Our teams and missions are significantly smaller than those of larger countries, nonetheless our people have long been commended for being dynamic, efficient, and knowledgeable in different areas.

This was showcased once again during the month of February, a month during which Malta had the Presidency of such Council. This meant chairing meetings, setting the agenda and leading and coordinating the work of the Council amongst other tasks. During this month, Malta held two successful signature events, on the protection of children in armed conflict and on tackling sea-level rise as a threat to peace and security. Malta was also responsible for presiding over the debate on the maintenance of peace and security in Ukraine, on the one-year anniversary since the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine. Malta will now have the Presidency of the UNSC once again during April 2024.

On several cases in the past where Malta was under the spotlight, our country was always able to rise to the occasion. The Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2017 is one recent instance which comes to mind. I am sure that this experience will be a positive one which will enhance our country’s reputation in the contribution to the peace and security agenda, with Malta’s diplomatic service at its core.

Christopher Cutajar is the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade