Yes, we deserve a seat

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Excerpted From the Ottawa Citizen, Thursday, September 30

First, what the critics ignore is that it is not Harper who is seeking a seat on the Security Council but Canada. As prime minister, Harper is our principal spokesman. Next year it could well be Michael Ignatieff or Bob Rae delivering the Canadian perspective.

Second, we’ve doubled our food aid to Africa since 2002, making us a leader in the G-8, and fulfilling a pledge made by Jean Chr├ętien. Canadian food aid is now completely “untied,” and we are on track to fully untying all of our aid by 2012.

But Canadians need to see that our aid is working, otherwise we risk skepticism about its utility and donor fatigue. After half a century, we have learned a lot about how to deliver development assistance. Putting in place rigorous accountability makes a lot of sense. We need to demonstrate, as Harper put it in the case of the Muskoka Initiative that we can, “measure progress, monitor results and ensure that funds intended for aid really contribute to a reduction in the mortality of mothers and children on a lasting basis.”

Third, we’ve always “tilted” towards Israel, especially in standing with Israel and other like-minded nations. We’ve always been against the double standard by which those nations in which there are few violations of human rights are condemned, while those in which such violations are part of a day-to-day system of government, are allowed to be the accusers and sponsors of resolutions like those targeting Israel around “Zionism as racism.”

In spite of a relentlessly hostile and ruthless neighborhood, Israel is a vibrant democracy whose people have turned desert into one of the most remarkably innovative nations in the world. We may not always agree with the actions and policies of its government, but with the Israeli people we make common cause.

Fourth, notwithstanding its ever-present “crisis of relevance,” the UN still counts. In his memoir, one of our most distinguished UN ambassadors remarked that the public sometimes assumes that the “endless debates replete with grievances, self-glorification, and vitriol” are a “tedious exercise in futility.” Yet this “caravanserai of conflicting interests and ideologies,” he continued, “can act as a catalyst in negotiations and settlements, which, ostensibly, have nothing whatever to do with the organization.”

The remarks are from The Making of a Peacemonger and its author is George Ignatieff, father of Michael Ignatieff. Bob Rae’s father, the impressive Saul Rae, also served with distinction as Canadian ambassador to the United Nations.

The United Nations matters. Its alphabet soup of specialized agencies deal with the big issues of global development including refugees, disease and famine. Their efforts remain essential even if their work is mostly unseen.

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