Isabel Saint Malo
Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama 2014 – 2019
Former Vice-President of the Republic of Panama and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Isabel Saint Malo, has extensive international experience with emphasis in Latin America. Expertise in government, multilateral and public affairs. Highly regarded for institution-building abilities and implementing public policy and advocacy. Following her election in 2014 as Vice-President and her appointment as Foreign Minister, she became the first woman elected to the Vice Presidency as well as the first woman appointed as Foreign Minister in the history of her country.
Ms. Saint Malo started her diplomatic career occupying different posts between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama and the United Nations Permanent Mission in New York (1990-1992), where she served as an Alternate Permanent Representative. She also worked for 15 years with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Panama.
From UNDP, she led the team that designed and executed the Agreements Panama 2000 where the framework for the legislation of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) was created with the support and agreement of the government, political parties, private and labor sectors as well as civil society. The ACP was to administer the waterway once it reverted to Panamanian hands. She participated
as a facilitator of over a dozen dialogue and consensus-building processes around development issues in several countries in Latin America, acquiring strong skills in bringing together diverse views and constructing a common agenda with the participation of different sectors.
For her contributions to building national consensus over two decades, she received the Woman of the Year award (2012), from the Panamanian Business Executives Association (APEDE), and was also distinguished by the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace of the Hebrew University of Israel and the Council of the Americas with the Bravo Awards 2018.
The former Vice-President has been a member of different boards of directors including Banco BBVA and Fundación Democracia y Libertad, was a founding member of the Women Corporate Directors Association of Panama, and is a fellow of the Central American Leadership Initiative(“CALI”) and the Aspen Institute (2008). Founder of the Global Shapers hub of Panama City, an initiative of the World Economic Forum to develop the potential of young leaders, and was appointed as an expert to the Global Agenda Council on Transparency (2014) by the same organization.
In her capacity as Vice-President, she chaired the Social Cabinet and led the National Council for Development, from where the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been promoted, including the presentation at the United Nations of the country´s volunteer SDG report of progress. From these platforms, she also promoted social policies, as “Zero Poverty” around the strategic objective of eradicating poverty and social inequality and endorsed a national consensus on education and health.
Ms. Saint Malo is a champion in sponsoring issues related to transparency, the fight against corruption and gender equality. As the Latin American and Caribbean Champion for the UN Women-ILO-OECD initiative “Equal Pay International Coalition,” and the leader of the IDB-WEF Panama´s Gender Parity Taskforce, she was instrumental in promoting the implementation of policies to ensure gender equality for Panama and internationally.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs, successfully implemented the modernization and institutional strengthening of the Ministry, with the objective to encourage the professionalism of Panamanian diplomacy. Responsible for establishing and signing diplomatic relations with the People´s Republic of China and designing a 12 points bilateral agenda.
She has been a guest speaker at prestigious Universities including London School of Economics, Harvard University, Columbia University, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Georgetown University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Saint Joseph´s University and SAIS at John´s Hopkins among others.
Ms. Saint Malo has been interviewed and cited by the most prestigious television and newspapers globally, including CNN International, BBC International and its UK and Singapur´s editions, NBC, CCTV, AL Jazeera; the most well-known agencies including Reuters, AP, Agence France-Presse, Xinhua, EFE, Yonhap News Agency; as well as newspapers in Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East including Jordan Times, China Daily, Foreign Policy, The Guardian, The Economist, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, and others.
Upon the end of her mandate as Vice President, she was invited for the Fall semester of 2019 as a Resident Fellow of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University, where she led a study group on foreign policy and the global development agenda. She is currently at Harvard as an Advance Leadership Fellow for two semesters in 2022.
Currently, she works as an independent consultant as a Senior Advisor to Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, and has advised Un Women Regional Office for LAC on Innovative Finance with Gender Lens. Headed the Organization of American States (OAS) Observer Mission to the Presidential Elections of Ecuador 2021 and the Observer Mission to the Presidential Elections in Costa Rica 2022.
Member of GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion; of the Advisory Board of Women Political Leaders, of the Editorial Board of Americas Quarterly, and the Regional Board of Fundación Flor.
Holds a Degree in International Relations from Saint Joseph´s University and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University. She is married to Omar Alvarado, they have 3 children and reside in Panama.