Canada and UN Security Council seat 2021

Canada is facing a UN battle — with Bono

OTTAWA—U2 frontman Bono might think the world needs more Canada but he’s singing the praises of his Irish homeland now as Ireland launches a bid for a spot on the UN Security Council — marking a formidable competitor to Ottawa’s own aspirations for a council seat.

Ireland rolled out Bono’s star power as it kicked off its campaign in New York on Monday to win a seat on the influential body for the 2021-22 term.

U2’s Bono has been drafted by Ireland into the fight for a Security Council seat.
U2’s Bono has been drafted by Ireland into the fight for a Security Council seat.  (MICHEL EULER / AP)

Ireland’s attempts to win over the UN crowd began the night before when U2 played to a packed house at New York’s Madison Square Garden — with more than 150 UN diplomats invited as special guests.

Bono pointedly took a few minutes during the performance to lavish praise on the United Nations.

“If the United Nations didn’t exist, we would have to invent it. That is the truth. It’s the one place we can all meet. It’s the one place that puts peace on the negotiating table first,” he said.

The Irish rocker said that at a time when international institutions are under attack, the United Nations is needed more than ever and his country — with its history of conflict and violence — is well-suited to help.

“If you look at the agenda of what the Security Council will be called on to address over the coming years, doesn’t it look a lot like us? We’d like to think Ireland’s experience of colonialism, conflict, famine and mass migration give us a kind of hard-earned expertise in these problems. And, I hope, an empathy and I hope humility,” Bono said.

The singer acknowledged that UN diplomats could vote for Canada and its “truly remarkable leader … That Canada is nice is the worst thing I can say about them.”

People gather at the General Assembly, prior to a vote on Dec. 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters in New York. Canada is setting its sights on a seat at the UN Security Council.
People gather at the General Assembly, prior to a vote on Dec. 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters in New York. Canada is setting its sights on a seat at the UN Security Council.  (MARK LENNIHAN)

Bono has sung Canada’s praises in the past.

But now Canada finds itself in a tough competition with what Bono calls a “tiny rock in the Atlantic Ocean” and Norway, too, in a three-way race for the two seats that will come open on the 15-member council.

Justin Trudeau declared in 2016 that Canada would seek a Security Council seat, part of the Liberals’ vow to “restore Canadian leadership in the world.”

Democracy, inclusive governance, human rights, development and international peace and security were the among the priorities highlighted at the time.

“We are determined to help the UN make even greater strides in support of its goals for all humanity,” Trudeau saidduring a visit to UN headquarters that year.

Canada has served six times on the Security Council, the last time ending in 2000. The vote will be held in June 2020, after the October 2019 federal election.

The council has five permanent members — China, United States, France, United Kingdom and Russia — and 10 elected members. Each year, the general assembly elects five of the 10 spots for a two-year term.

Canada’s own campaign has been low-key so far. Cabinet ministers raise the topic in their meetings with politicians from other countries. And foreign affairs officials are plotting now how best to officially launch its bid.

But the campaign carries risks.

Losing would be humiliating for the Liberals — if they are still in power after the 2019 election.

The Liberals castigated Stephen Harper’s Conservatives for their failure to win a Security Council seat in 2010. At the time Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff called it a “clear condemnation” of the Conservatives’ foreign policy priorities.

But winning carries risks, too.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, cautions “be careful what you wish for,” noting that a spot on the Security Council would put Canada in the hot seat for the world’s most difficult crises.

“Being on the Security Council there are going to come a whole pile of complications,” said Robertson, a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

That could include being at loggerheads with the U.S., one of the council’s permanent members, and President Donald Trump, if he seeks and wins re-election in 2020.

“It’s going to require an awful lot of effort. Is that effort worth it?” he said.

Robertson speculates that with Ireland and Norway in the running, Canada is unlikely to garner many European votes. So it will have to look for support in other parts of the world — the Asia-Pacific region, the Caribbean, the Americas and Africa.

“I think we’ll run as a constructive middle power but there aren’t enough middle-power votes to carry the day so we have to appeal to smaller places,” he said.

Canada has the advantage of being a G7 and G20 country but otherwise, he said, the three countries in the running are almost “interchangeable” in terms of their priorities and vision for the world.

“It’s like campaigning against mirrors of yourself,” he said.

Indeed, at the campaign launch, Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Taoiseach or prime minister, highlighted themes that could easily be Canada’s own goals.

“We support a rules-based order in international affairs. We have acted as a voice for the disadvantaged and defenceless, promoting freedom and defending human rights,” Varadkar said.

“In areas such as peacekeeping, disarmament, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian assistance we have matched our words with our actions,” he said.

NDP MP Hélène Laverdière predicts the campaign will be “very difficult.

Canada already has a lot of strikes against its bid,” said Laverdière (Laurier-Sainte-Marie).

She noted Canada lags behind Norway and Ireland in foreign aid. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada’s aid spending in 2016 was 0.26 per cent of gross national income, compared to 0.32 for Ireland and 1.12 per cent for Norway.

Canada also lags behind both countries in military personnel deployed on UN peace missions. According to UN data to May 31, Canada had just 40 personnel assigned to peace missions compared to 542 for Ireland and 66 for Norway. But Canada’s numbers are set to rise as it deploys 250 military personnel to Mali on a yearlong mission to provide helicopters to support the UN mission there.

Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said Canada’s priority should be to help reform UN institutions, such as peace operations, even if it means forgoing a seat on the Security Council.

“We should never sacrifice taking principled positions at the UN for the sake of garnering votes. That becomes the challenge,” O’Toole said.

He said Ireland will be a challenge and will likely win the support of other European nations. “I’m not sure we can compete with Bono … He’s a hard brand to compete with so the Irish are certainly going for it,” O’Toole said.

“Maybe we should trot out Drake,” he said, referring to the Canadian superstar rapper.

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New Zealand and Security Council Campaign

Canada backs New Zealand’s bid for UN Security Council temporary seat

Kim Mackrael

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail Wednesday, Oct. 15 2014, 3:00 AM EDT

The Canadian government is backing New Zealand’s bid for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, throwing its support behind a long-time ally that’s promising a stronger voice for less-influential countries if it’s elected.

Ottawa lost its own bid for a Security Council seat in 2010, an embarrassing defeat that was followed by several years of cool relations between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the multilateral body. New Zealand is vying this year for one of two seats set to open up in the Western Europe and Other category, but faces stiff competition in rivals Turkey and Spain.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the government would not disclose its voting intentions because the election takes place by secret ballot. But a source familiar with the New Zealand campaign said Canada is supportive of that country’s bid, and internal records show Ottawa was prepared to dispense advice and advocate on New Zealand’s behalf.

China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States have permanent status on the 15-member Security Council and the power to veto proposed resolutions, and the remaining seats are filled through regular elections, with each member serving a two-year term. A total of five temporary seats are on the line in this year’s election, which is scheduled for Oct. 16.

Three of those seats should be decided easily: Angola, Venezuela and Malaysia are all running unopposed in their regional groups. The remaining two, which are reserved for countries in the UN’s Western European and Other grouping, are being contested by Spain, Turkey and New Zealand.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian envoy to Washington, said New Zealand enters the race at a disadvantage, particularly compared with Spain, which can expect the support of other European Union members who tend to vote as a group. Turkey may also have an advantage in the election as an influential country with a growing role in global security issues.

“New Zealand is hoping to win just on merit,” Mr. Robertson said, noting the country has long been an active and steadfast supporter of the UN. “But it’s uphill for them compared with Spain or Turkey.”

A booklet on New Zealand’s candidacy emphasizes a commitment to multilateralism and the government’s interest in bringing the voices of smaller states to the Security Council table. Last week, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister told The Wall Street Journal that, if elected, his government’s priorities would include containing Islamic State militants and finding a solution to the crisis in Ukraine.

Internal records obtained through Access to Information laws show the Canadian government expressed support for New Zealand’s bid and may have lobbied Caribbean countries on New Zealand’s behalf. “Canada is actively supporting New Zealand’s bid for election to the United Nations Security Council for 2015-16, particularly among Caribbean nations,” says a memo for the Prime Minister, dated April 12, 2013.

A second document, prepared for a meeting between Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and then-New Zealand justice minister Judith Collins in July, 2013, said Canada supports New Zealand’s bid and “is happy to share lessons learned from our previous campaign for a [UN Security Council] seat.”

A source familiar with New Zealand’s campaign confirmed Canada has offered advice and support. There were “plenty of conversations” between officials from both countries over the course of New Zealand’s bid, the source said, including talks about that country’s candidacy and its efforts to secure votes. New Zealand has also discussed its candidacy with a number of other countries, the source said.

Adam Chapnick, a foreign policy expert at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, said Canada, Australia and New Zealand have a long-standing, unwritten agreement to back each others’ candidacies at the Security Council, in part because all three are outsiders in the Western European and Others regional grouping. The countries are also long-standing allies and are part of an intelligence-sharing relationship along with Britain and the United States.

Mr. Robertson added that he thinks the Canadian government was unfairly criticized for losing its 2010 bid, because it was already at a disadvantage as a non-EU candidate in a regional grouping dominated by Western European countries. There were other “mitigating” circumstances, he said, but “it’s always going to be tough for Canada to get in because we work in a bloc that works to our disadvantage. And this holds true for the New Zealanders and Australia as well.”

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Stephen Harper’s World View

Excerpted from October Policy Options ‘Harper’s World View’

…Argue with the taxonomy, but there are essentially three traditions in Canadian foreign policy. The first is the realist, power-and-interest tradition that holds close to the hegemon, initially Britain and then the United States. The external counterpart to Sir John A. Macdonald’s National Policy, it has been followed, in varying degrees, by Macdonald, then Sir Wilfrid Laurier through to Brian Mulroney. The second is the Mackenzie King tradition, nationalist, regional in outlook, and both cautious and skeptical about international entanglements. It also appealed to populist, regional third parties from the Progressives through the Bloc Quebecois. The third is the St- Laurent-Pearson tradition, further refined by Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien: strongly nationalist and internationalist – assertive, energetic, with an emphasis on international law and institutions.

Looking at Harper’s record suggests his approach to foreign policy fits comfortably within the realist, power-and-interest tradition.  At the outset the new PM promised to “build the relationships and the capabilities which will allow us to preserve our sovereignty, to protect our interests, and to project our values…In a shrinking, changing, dangerous world,” he declared in his first major foreign policy speech in October 2006. He continued: “our government must play a role in the world. And I believe that Canadians want a significant role – a clear, confident and influential role…they don’t want a Canada that just goes along; they want a Canada that leads. They want a Canada that doesn’t just criticize, but one that can contribute. They want a Canada that reflects their values and interests, and that punches above its weight.”

The debate within Canada around energy and the environment is symptomatic of another rule of politics. What may constitute good public policy – taxing carbon, ending sales of asbestos, abandoning supply marketing, permitting foreign investment in our resources, is not always good politics. Regional differences make national consensus difficult. National unity comes with a price and there is more than a little wisdom to F.R.Scott’s lampoon of Mackenzie King: “Do nothing by halves/ Which can be done by quarters.”

While putting on the blue beret has considerable romantic appeal, Canadians have not led in peacekeeping for a couple of decades and contemporary circumstances make it unlikely we’ll do so again soon. In part, there has been an effort to ‘regionalize’ peacekeeping pools and in part, as Denis Stairs points out, contributing to UN peacekeeping operations is “a source of badly needed foreign exchange” for the main source countries – Bengladesh, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.

Technology and more failing states means what is required is less peacekeeping than peacemaking or peace enforcement or acting as a first responder to disasters. To echo historian Jack Granatstein, we owe former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier a great debt for “changing the conceit that Canadians were peacekeepers first, last and always.” Our experience in Afghanistan has given us the ‘best little army’ in the world and the skills we’ve developed proved adaptable and effective in the relief of Haiti after the hurricane. This is a much more realistic role for Canada and while Canadians wanted us out of a combat role in Afghanistan, there is strong public support for the Forces.

Rather than flog the dead horse of peacekeeping, the bigger policy question for Canadians is how far, and how much, should we commit to duties beyond our border that actively involve us in other people’s conflicts with significant risk to the lives of Canadians. Observes Australian diplomat-scholar Owen Harries: “The successful promotion of democracy calls for restraint and patience, a sense of limits and an appreciation of the wisdom of indirection, a profound understanding of the particularity of circumstances.”

As we have learned in Afghanistan and Iraq, liberal democracy is not an easy transplant and any policy of imposing it through force will also fail. Acting with the best of intentions is inherently difficult to translate into significant change because of the extent to which they depend on other people and other, often intractable, societies.

The  2008 Canada First Defense Strategy gives teeth to our ambitions in homeland defence and in making a necessary contribution to collective security.: “`A handful of soldiers is better than a mouthful of arguments,”’ said Harper in Trapani, Italy the base for RCAF CF-18s flying over Libya, “For the Gadhafis of this world pay no attention to the force of argument. The only thing they get is the argument of force.”
Restoring the traditional designations – Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force – to strengthen their identities as national institutions is a positive step.

But the real test for the Conservatives will be to meet the new recruitment targets, ultimately 100,000 personnel (70,000 Regular Force and 30,000 Primary Reserve), and to meet the procurement timetable for the new ships and planes that will “give us the ability to act.” Our procurement process is inadequate. As the Auditor General and the Canadian Association of Defence and Securities Industries (CADSI) and others have pointed out, the likely result is that new kit will be delayed, abandoned or diminished in quality and quantity. We need to quickly develop a defence industrial strategy and a viable ship building industry.  A useful first step would be to look to the experiences of our British and Australian allies…

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Embracing the Americas Starting with Mexico

Excerpted from May edition Policy Options Embracing the Americas, starting with Mexico

If Canadians needed a wake-up call to the power of regional blocs and the pace of political integration within the European Union, we got it last fall with our failure to secure a seat on the Security Council as a member of the Western European and Other Group (WEOG). The message is clear: we aren’t European. It is time we recognized geography and embraced our place in the Americas.

We’ve created the most successful bilateral relationship in the world with the United States. It will always be our primordial relationship. But our usually comfortable alignment with the colossus has meant that we’ve been reluctant to look further south on the continental map. The US has never thought this way and the since the earliest days of the Republic they’ve always been active in the Americas and the Monroe Doctrine (1823) has been one of the most durable and longstanding element in American foreign policy.

The combined populations of the Americas south of the Rio Grande gives them the potential over the coming decades to develop into a market as important as that of the EU, China and India. Growth rates are predicted to be 4.1 per cent a year for the next five years – double that of the G8 economies. The Chinese get it and are making significant investments. And with China competing with America for influence, there are geo-political reasons for our making our presence felt because we also have significant interests in the Americas. Yet, as a recent report conducted by our Department of Foreign Affairs concluded, we need “more concrete evidence on the ground of Canada’s interest.” Our relevance in the region will also be measured in terms of our capacity and willingness to participate in the broader social, political and economic agenda.

The Bank of Nova Scotia opened its first branch outside of Canada in Kingston, Jamaica in 1889 and Canadian banks are now found throughout the Caribbean. Our Foreign Direct Investment in the Americas outside USA is three times that in Asia. We’ve created a network of FTAs, far more in Latin America than in Asia: with Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia, Peru. The Panama FTA is before Parliament and we are negotiating with Honduras, Caribbean Community and we’ve started discussions with MERCOSUR. We are now the number one investor in Chile. Despite bumps in the road, we have a growing strategic relationship with Brazil, the bookend to Mexico in Latin America. In terms of aid and development, we are committed to Haiti for the long-term.

By embracing the Americas we also play back into our principal relationship with the United States because when successive administrations, especially since Ronald Reagan, think strategically about the Americas, they think start with the trilateral relationship of Mexico and Canada. We should do the same and start our embrace of the Americas with Mexico.

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On Prime Minister Harper’s UN Speech

Canada AM: Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, told CTV’s Canada AM that Canada will be well-served by its strong history with the United Nations. Robertson said Canada has the “best little army” in the world, and once the Canadian Forces are clear of Afghanistan there will be a laundry list of missions they can assist with.

“As the day is long, there is going to be other crises around the world that are going to require the kind of capacity that Canada has developed, particularly in Afghanistan with years of peacekeeping. We have a good reputation,” he said.

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