Canada & the UN

Written by  //  May 22, 2008  //  Canada, Foreign Policy, United Nations  //  Comments Off on Canada & the UN

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May 22
Canada’s bid for a seat at the table is worth saving
Robert Fowler
Special to Globe and Mail Update
Last week, The Globe and Mail reported that the Canadian government was considering withdrawing its bid to seek election to the United Nations Security Council in the fall of 2010 — a startling state of affairs that suggests the government has no confidence in its own foreign policy.
Canada has served six times at the UN’s “High Table,” and it was my privilege to conduct the campaign that secured us a seat in 1999 and 2000 and to represent Canadians on the Security Council for the first 20 months of that term, serving twice as council president. It was a hard-fought campaign waged over three and a half years and, until the vote in early October, 1998, we never assumed that we would prevail over one of our friends and rivals, the Netherlands and Greece, for those two seats. Once on the council, we were able to improve the way the United Nations pursues its peacekeeping vocation by ensuring that the mandates of peacekeeping operations specifically protected the weak — the women and children caught up in the horrors that blue helmeted forces are sent to manage.
We also used our chairmanship of the Security Council’s Angola Sanctions Committee to name and shame sanctions busters (including sitting heads of government) who were shipping arms to the rebel movement, UNITA, which was financing their predations with blood diamonds. Once the arms suppliers and unscrupulous diamond merchants had been subjected to such scrutiny, the supply of fuel, ammunition and weapons to the rebel movement ceased, which led quickly to its military defeat and the end of a vicious 25-year civil war. All of which proves it is possible to make a difference through service on the Security Council.
May 21
Turning our back on the UN
(Globe & Mail) Think the U.S. presidential campaign is long? It’s a sprint compared to campaigning for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Canada started campaigning four years before the vote on a two-year term in 1999-2000. Canada topped the poll in the Western European and Others Group, as it had every time it stood for election.
But this time, Stephen Harper’s government is hesitating before giving the green light for the intense campaign required, in part because Canada might not even win one of the two seats up for grabs.
Circumstances and the Harperites’ foreign policy imperil Canada’s chances in the secret ballot that will occur two years from now for the 2011-2012 term. At this early stage, Canada’s chances are no better than 50-50 to snag one of the WEOG seats, the other contenders being Germany and Portugal.
What does Canada have going against it? The recent Israel-right-or-wrong policy – reflected in various statements, policies and UN votes – has been sourly noted by the 50-odd Muslim countries that cast a ballot. The coldness toward Beijing also has been noted, especially by influential China, a permanent member of the Security Council.
In Africa, with 52 voting countries, there’s a sense the Harper government doesn’t care as much about the continent as did previous governments. As well, the Harper government follows Canada’s long-standing policy of opposing additional permanent members of the Security Council, a policy that irritates countries that want one, such as Japan, Brazil, Germany and India. Of course, European Union members usually vote overwhelmingly for each other.
Canada flunked the climate-change test, compiling the worst record of any country that signed Kyoto Protocol, a worrying factor for many countries, especially island ones.
If, as expected, the government begins to target aid to a smaller number of countries – an entirely justified policy – those countries that lose Canadian aid also will feel grumpy.
In short, there’s a sense that the Harper government’s heart just isn’t in the United Nations. Ministers don’t go there very often. Canada was once a key player on files such as the land-mine treaty and the creation of the International Criminal Court. That sort of multilateralism just doesn’t turn the crank of the Harper government.
May 19
Canada mulls decision to pursue Security Council seat
Canada’s planned 2010 bid for a non-permanent member seat on the United Nations Security Council may be aborted before it even begins, the Toronto Star reports. Fear of embarrassment that Canada might not be able to gain the requisite number of votes, the newspaper says, is behind the hesitation.
[We reprint the story below in its entirety because we have had frustrating experiences with the Toronto Star archives and this is a topic we will follow]
Canada a wallflower at UN dance
Inability to attract votes behind lack of bid for Security Council seat, say diplomatic observers

A seat on the United Nations Security Council is the most sought-after property on the international stage.
No question about it, says Paul Heinbecker, Canada’s UN ambassador from 2001 to 2004.
“The council decides on peace and war, it commands 100,000 troops. All countries want a seat, the Germans and Japanese bend over backwards to get one.”
But suddenly not Canada.
Though Ottawa announced in 2001 it would seek a council spot in 2010, the necessary campaign hasn’t begun – and may be aborted before it does.
Not for want of support for the UN, say analysts, but because Ottawa fears Canada doesn’t have enough backing to guarantee a win.
That would be humiliating, given Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2006 speech to the General Assembly. “Make no mistake,” he said. “Canada intends to be a player.”
But last week, Harper said no decision has yet been made about playing the Security Council game.
The hesitation stuns foreign affairs veterans like Heinbecker, who warns, “It will play badly in the country if they don’t go for it.” [We wonder whether he is right. Does the country care, or has the majority of Canadians been gradually turned away from an interest in international affairs by the Harper government’s erratic – if not dismissive, as evidenced by the choices of ministers – approach to foreign policy?]
The council has 15 members; five permanent members – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France – and 10 serving two-year terms. Two-thirds of the votes of the assembly’s 192 members are needed to win. Germany is virtually assured one of the two seats allotted to the “region” of Western Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Canada and Portugal would be competing for the other.
“But the numbers are dicey,” says Heinbecker. “That’s why they’re worried.”
After six successful bids, Canada could face defeat for the first time ever for several reasons, chief among them its shift four years ago to a more pro-Israel policy. It was Liberal PM Paul Martin’s move, but Ottawa has stayed with it.
In the past, Canada abstained from voting on the predictable series of anti-Israel, pro-Palestine resolutions placed before the General Assembly every year, while the U.S. routinely opposed them.
At the end of 2004, however, Ottawa broke with tradition and started to vote No with the U.S. and Israel. Then-foreign minister Pierre Pettigrew called it a “principled” approach, where each resolution would be judged on its own merits.
Since then, Canada has voted No twice as often as it has abstained.
“The world doesn’t believe the pro-Israel votes are principled, but political,” says Heinbecker. “It has reacted negatively to the shift.”
Many foreign officials at the time disagreed with the move, saying that no matter how distasteful the rhetoric of the anti-Israel resolutions, the General Assembly is the only place Palestinians feel they get a fair, if only symbolic, hearing.
The consequences of the shift are now coming home to roost, says Heinbecker. There are 57 Muslim nations, 25 of them Arab. If, as speculated, 45 of them move against Canada, it means almost all the remaining nations must support it.
There is no assurance of that.
Eric Hoskins, a senior foreign policy adviser when Canada last won a council seat in 1999, says he doubts “one foreign policy decision would tip it. The world knows that governments come and go. One position here or there wouldn’t affect the votes we’d get just on its historical record.”
Hoskins says myriad factors influence where a country’s vote goes.
Portugal is already running a “small country” campaign that will find favour with other smaller nations, especially in Europe, fed up with larger states always winning seats. And Canada has sat on the council more than any other non-permanent country in its region.
African countries no longer on the receiving end of Canadian foreign aid will get their payback by not supporting the bid, says a former diplomat. “Downplaying Africa can cost you at times like this.”
While Canada has a good reputation internationally, the world doesn’t share its ultra-high opinion of itself, he says. It isn’t considered “constructive and co-operative” on climate change, it’s only middle of the pack in terms of foreign aid and is far from the top in terms of peacekeeping contributions, even with its Afghanistan deployment.
But Latin American support can be counted on, especially since Harper declared the region a foreign policy “priority” last year, calling it “the neighbourhood.” [What have we done to implement that declaration?]
“Our people in New York are not pessimistic,” says the diplomat. “But add it all together and the numbers aren’t good.”
Doubts about winning surfaced the last time Canada ran, says Hoskins. The risk of losing was weighed against what had to be done in order to win.
“You have to lobby hard, be prepared to slog it out for 18 months, meet with UN ambassadors, trade something for their votes. It’s a complicated process.”
But worth it, he emphatically adds. As a result of Canadian initiatives last time on the council, the International Criminal Court, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine and protocols against the use of child soldiers all came into being.
Canada cannot forfeit that kind of opportunity, says Hoskins, even if there is a chance of losing: “What are we saying if we don’t even make the effort?”

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