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Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press.

Louise Fréchette


“I saw myself as someone who would be the chief problem-solver, the chief coordinator, the chief prodder of change and improvement in behavior and performance.”

Louise Fréchette
Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997-2006)


Louise Fréchette took on one of the biggest management challenges in the world: fixing the bureaucracy of the United Nations. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Fréchette as the UN’s first Deputy Secretary-General in 1998. Her duties included representing the United Nations at official functions and chairing the Steering Committee on Reform and Management Policy. With no precedent to follow, she defined the role for herself and focused on the organization’s inner workings. Her goal was to ensure that the UN achieved more with its limited resources. She developed a close working relationship with Annan and his chef de cabinet Iqbal Riza and established her reputation as a fair and impartial mediator to resolve the internal disputes that distracted from front-line operations. Fréchette’s eight years as Deputy Secretary-General extended Canada’s tradition of taking a leading role in the work of global governance.

Louise Frechette (second from left) sits alongside Pierre Pettigrew and Prime Minister Paul Martin at the at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal. Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press.

Fréchette joined the Foreign Service in 1971 and quickly distinguished herself as a rising star in the Department of External Affairs. She became one of Canada’s youngest heads of mission when she was appointed Ambassador to Argentina in 1985. Fréchette returned to Ottawa as Assistant Deputy Minister of the Latin American and Caribbean Branch and tightened Canada’s relationship with Latin America by gaining membership in the Organization of American States. She became the first woman to lead Canada’s mission to the UN in 1992, where she played a central role in organizing peacekeeping operations in Haiti. On returning to Ottawa, Fréchette was appointed Associate Deputy Minister of Finance, then Deputy Minister of National Defence.

Fréchette was born in Montreal in 1946. She studied history at l’Universtié de Montréal and completed a postgraduate diploma in economics at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. Fréchette was made an officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of her career in the civil service.

Further Reading:

Fréchette, Louise. “The United Nations: Adapting to the Twenty-First Century.” in Irrelevant or Indispensable? The United Nations in the 21stCentury edited by Paul Heinbecker and Patricia Goff, 9-17. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2005.

Weiers, Margaret K. Envoys Extraordinary: Women in the Canadian Foreign Service. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1995.

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