The Malta Independent 21 May 2024, Tuesday
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‘We weren't feeling human anymore' - Vanessa Frazier recounts what led to Malta's Gaza resolution

Sunday, 21 April 2024, 08:00 Last update: about 30 days ago

Kevin Schembri Orland reporting from the United Nations in New York City

Last year, a UN Security Council Resolution led by Malta resulted in a much needed humanitarian pause for a few days in the conflict in Gaza.

The conflict began on the 7th of October 2023, after Hamas launched an attack on Israel, killing over a thousand people and taking hostages. Israel retaliated, and the ensuing war has taken the lives of over 30,000 people thus far.

"We were all saying we weren't feeling human anymore. For how long were we going to see babies being dug out from rubble," Malta's Permanent representative Vanessa Frazier told journalists about the time leading up to Malta putting forward its Security Council resolution last November.


She described working on a resolution as difficult, due to the politics revolving around the wording and what would be acceptable to avoid potential vetoes.

She had been working on a Presidential statement about the conflict, which is one notch below a resolution, but informal talks between various diplomats led her to say that she was willing to draft the resolution with a particular focus. The goal, she said, was that they wanted the release of women and children and that humanitarian aid be allowed in. "There were people captured in tunnels, children under rubble."

She said that resolutions at the time were being halted for a number of reasons, which is why they were not going to include those reasons in the Malta proposed resolution.  Instead, it focused on the hostages and a pause to the conflict for humanitarian aid. "We needed to be human. I would, and still wake up every night, suffocating, claustrophobic thinking about the children under the rubble and in tunnels."

While people would see what was happening on television, she said, they would then move on to other things. "But for us all we were seeing, all the time, was Gaza."

"It was affecting us."

"As human beings we couldn't take it any longer, and the resolution passed."

"When Israel said it was going to go back to attacking, it was worse as we had seen what a pause to the fighting could bring out," she said.

The most recent resolution regarding Gaza, issued by the UN Security Council on the 25th of March this year, called for a ceasefire for the months of Ramadan. But no ceasefire came into effect.

She was asked whether this had an impact on the perception of the effectiveness of resolutions, to which she said it did.

"Having a UN Security Council resolution imposing certain obligations on countries is supposed to be something serious," she said, but added that if they are ignored, that is a problem. The biggest criticism coming from the outside, more than that the Security Council cannot pass resolutions due to some countries having the veto, would be a lack of implementation, she said. "The Charter says that any decision of the Council is binding."

The Security Council is the highest body in multilateralism, she said. "The Charter says that any Council decision is binding." Of the three options, which include a resolution, presidential statement or a press statement, a resolution holds the most weight, she said. "They all need to be negotiated and adopted by consensus, except a resolution can be vetoed." These are binding, she said.

A veto would be the last thing you face, she said, contrary to the perception that it is the first thing the council faces. "The veto really allows for honest negotiations," she said, as the first tool the permanent Security Council members use is negotiation. In the case of the latest resolution which passed, no veto was used. "We had a resolution agreed upon by everyone."

As for what could be done about countries ignoring resolutions, she said that in the past, there have been cases where action was taken when countries did not adhere to Security Council resolutions. "There are tools," she said, but added that it is difficult. Even if no steps are taken, the resolution is important as it is legally binding. 

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