UN Vote on Jerusalem

Canada among 35 abstaining from UN vote condemning American embassy move to Jerusalem

WATCH: In an overwhelming vote, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution Thursday calling U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void.”

Canada was one of 35 countries that abstained from a vote Thursday during which more than 100 members of the United Nations overwhelmingly condemned the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“Canada is strongly committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel. Canada’s longstanding position is that the status of Jerusalem can be resolved only as part of a general settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. This has been the policy of consecutive governments, both Liberal and Conservative,” said Adam Austen, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“Canada continues to support building the conditions necessary for the parties to find a peaceful solution. We are disappointed that this resolution is one sided and does not advance prospects for peace to which we aspire, which is why we will abstain on today’s vote.”

At an emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, members of the international organization cast votes on a motion that represents a major global condemnation of Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem, which both Israel and the Palestinian people claim as their capital.

WATCH: Nikki Haley tells the United Nations that ‘The U.S. will remember this day’

The countries that voted with the United States against the resolution condemning its embassy move were Togo, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Honduras, Guatemala and Israel.

The full list of abstaining countries was: Antigua-Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, the Bahamas, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Haiti, Hungary, Jamaica, Kiribati, Latvia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, the Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda and Vanuatu.

The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and China all voted to condemn the move of the American embassy as part of a total of 128 countries voting in favour of the resolution.

READ MORE:Trump threatens to cut aid to UN members over Jerusalem vote

The decision by Canada to abstain was not unexpected but represents a delicate balance the Canadian government is trying to walk as it navigates between not irritating the Americans while NAFTA negotiations are ongoing and also not alienating the roughly 50 Arab states with the power to cast votes in a powerful bloc against Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper made a point of solidifying Canadian support for Israel at the United Nations, voting in concert with the U.S. and Israel at several major votes over the years, and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not significantly strayed from that path, often sticking with the decision to cast matching votes.

READ MORE: UN Security Council considers call for U.S. Jerusalem decision to be withdrawn

The vote on Thursday, however, is likely to draw more attention for Canada as one of the handful of abstaining countries.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, doubled down in her opening statement to the General Assembly ahead of the vote and repeated vows to yank American foreign aid from countries that vote to condemn the move.

“The decision does nothing to harm the peace process,” said Haley. “America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. that is what the American people want us to do and it is the right thing to do. No vote in the U.N. will make any difference on that.”

Several abstaining countries who spoke after the vote stressed in remarks made to the General Assembly that while they remained committed to a two-state solution with both countries able to negotiate a settlement on the Jerusalem issue, the resolution presented Thursday would not do anything to bring both parties closer to peace and warned it would only inflame tensions.

“Canada is of the view that the status of Jerusalem is part and parcel of the solution,” said Marc-André Blanchard, Canada’s permanent representative to the United Nations, in a brief statement following the vote.

“Canada calls for calm and firmly opposes the violence and targeting of civilians seen in recent weeks.”

Neither Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer nor Erin O’Toole had an immediate comment on the vote but NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere criticized the decision by Canada to abstain, calling it “deeply disappointing.”

“Canada’s decision to abstain today, and its recent UN votes, are contrary to Canada’s own stated foreign policy on Israel/Palestine,” she said in a press release.

“At a time when Canada should be standing up for international law and promoting human rights, Canada is isolating itself.  We urge the Trudeau government to uphold their own stated values, condemn illegal settlements, and finally stand up for the rights of the Palestinian people as well as the rights of Israelis. Canada has been silent on these issues for far too long.”

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who was posted to the mission at the United Nations and the consulate general in New York, characterized the resolution itself as a game of ping-pong between Middle Eastern countries.

He also said he thinks Canada was wise to try and keep its nose out of the issue as much as possible.

“I’d say our vote was both prudent and consistent,” he told Global News. “But I’d sure bet having to make the decision was as welcome as the proverbial lump of coal at Christmas.”


Comments Off on UN Vote on Jerusalem

Rethinking International Assistance


How Canada should rethink international assistance

The Globe and Mail Thursday, May 26, 2016

As the federal government rethinks its international assistance policies, it should heed the call from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for transformative change to global humanitarian relief.

This week’s Istanbul humanitarian conference has put the spotlight on the current state of the global relief system and the effort to reform how the world responds to humanitarian crises.

Disasters, natural or man-made, are increasing. So is the number of conflicts as well as failed and failing states. And the current system of international aid is underfunded and overstretched. The UN estimates that 125 million people need humanitarian relief. The need for smarter relief and development assistance is urgent and immediate. Rethinking our international assistance is timely and sensible.

Officials at the Istanbul conference pointed to the breakdown of international norms on asylum, the need to localize aid and frictions between those who provide relief and those who do not. The conference will provide some much-needed context for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Group of Seven leaders, who are looking at aid accountability as part of their broader summit discussions this week in Ise-Shima, Japan.

While the UN is often criticized as nothing more than a talk shop, in recent months it has concluded a global climate accord and set new sustainable development goals – all of which will factor into Canada’s assistance review. The review, running from May to July, promises broad consultation with planned events around governance, pluralism, diversity and human rights as well as peace and security.

The future direction of Canadian assistance is clearly stated in the government’s discussion guide. International assistance is to advance the UN 2030 Sustainable Development agenda while applying “a feminist lens” to help “the poorest and most vulnerable people.” But to expect more money would be “unrealistic … in the current fiscal context.”

While the overall direction has yet to be determined, the differences between the previous Conservative government’s approach – an emphasis on environmental sustainability, gender equality and governance – are likely to be more tonal than substantive.

Nor is former prime minister Stephen Harper’s framework – with its emphasis on untied aid and a selective country focus – likely to change. The Liberal government has also decided, wisely, to maintain the consolidation of diplomacy, trade and development.

Much of Mr. Harper’s signature program, to improve maternal, newborn and child health, also fits into the Liberal paradigm. The government will continue supporting this initiative, but with more support for family planning and greater attention to the root causes of maternal and child mortality.

The success of the government’s development review will hinge on a number of factors.

First, investing more money. Canada currently sits in the bottom half of the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development when it comes to development assistance. While the Liberal government is right to oppose “throwing buckets of money indiscriminately,” more money, well-spent, makes more impact.

As a recent report assessing Canada’s engagement gap put it, we meet the definition of “free riders” when it comes to development and defence. If Britain can devote 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product to development assistance and 2 per cent to defence (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization standard), shouldn’t we at least aspire to this goal?

Second, Mr. Harper was right when he underlined the importance of accountability in development. But let’s do it with a lighter touch, practise risk management and recognize that civil society organizations (CSOs) need multiyear commitments to demonstrate results. Governments insist that CSOs bring their overhead down, yet they drown them in paperwork.

Third, we can’t boil the ocean so we need to focus. Our projects will always reflect our values, but there is nothing wrong with choosing those that also complement our trade and investment interests. In Africa, for example, our development assistance should work in tandem with our resource industries’ investment to demonstrate best-in-class corporate social responsibility.

Fourth, we need to improve and develop Canadian expertise by investing in Canadian CSOs and in youth exchanges. Programs like Canada World Youth gave generations of Canadians their first international experience while giving their foreign counterparts an appreciation of Canada that has opened doors in diplomacy, trade, education and migration.

Finally, donors – especially in the West – are fatigued and skeptical about aid’s effectiveness. The Liberal government should use these consultations to reassure Canadians about the efficacy of development assistance.

Comments Off on Rethinking International Assistance

Canada Seeks UN Security Council Seat

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially launched Canada’s campaign for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council In the lobby of the United Nations headquarters in New York on March 16, 2016.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially launched Canada’s campaign for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council In the lobby of the United Nations headquarters in New York on March 16, 2016.
Photo Credit: ICI Radio-Canada

Prime minister seeks UN Security Council seat


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to United Nations headquarters to officially launch Canada’s campaign to get a two-year temporary seat at the Security Council for the 2021-22 term. Among his arguments for were Canada’s leadership at the Paris summit on climate change, its acceptance of 25,000 Syrian refugees, and what he called “Canada’s pivotal role” in peace and security.

ListenLeader promises to revitalize historic peacekeeping role

He emphasized Canada’s role as a peacekeeper and vowing “to revitalize Canada’s historic role as a key contributor to United Nations peacekeeping, in addition to helping advance current reform efforts…

“And Canada will increase its engagement with peace operations, not just by making available our military, police, and specialized expertise, but also by supporting the civilian institutions that prevent conflict, bring stability to fragile states, and help societies recover in the aftermath of crisis,” said Trudeau.

Previous bid lost, an embarrassing defeat

Canada’s previous government had withdrawn from United Nations activity and was seen to have made a lacklustre run for a seat on the Security Council in 2010. It withdrew when it became evident Portugal would win the vote instead.   It was the first time in 50 years that Canada lost a bid to win a seat on the council.

‘Time for Canada to step up once again’

After that government was defeated, newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Canada is back” as a player on the UN stage. Echoing the same message in the lobby of the UN Trudeau said, “It’s time. It is time for Canada to step up once again.”

Canada’s chances of winning the vote for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council are good, in the opinion of Colin Robertson, former diplomat and vice-president and fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. He notes the Canadian public is proud of Canada’s pioneering role in peacekeeping and is likely to approve of Trudeau plan to take a more active role in international affairs.


Reality check: Is securing a seat on the UN Security Council necessary for Canada?
By Monique Muise National Online Journalist, Politics Global News

WATCH: Global News chief political correspondent Tom Clark discusses what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s strategy is for raising Canada’s influence on the world.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began a two-day trip to New York City on Wednesday, and kicked things off with what will likely prove to be the centerpiece of his visit to the United Nations.

The prime minister confirmed that Canada will seek to re-join the powerful UN Security Council after failing — for the first time ever — to secure a seat around the table in 2010.

The upcoming bid for a two-year term starting in 2021 is part of a broader rapprochement between Canada and the United Nations that began with Trudeau welcoming UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Ottawa in February.

Observers have noted that the warming trend may be politically advantageous for Trudeau as he attempts to position himself as a champion of UN priorities like refugee resettlement, tackling climate change and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East.

READ MORE: Trudeau at UN promotes parental leave for fathers, gender parity

But beyond the politics, what, if anything, would a seat on the Security Council really achieve for Canada?

WATCH: Canada lost its last bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2010, something Justin Trudeau is looking to change with a trip to New York. Jacques Bourbeau reports.

According to Paul Heinbecker, who served as Canada’s UN ambassador during a period when it sat on the Security Council in the early 2000s, membership will allow Ottawa to influence policy at a high level, and that can be critical when dealing with health emergencies like the Ebola crisis, or mass refugee migrations.

“Canadians are looking at the world now and they’re seeing a lot of upset, a lot of instability, a lot of risk that they didn’t think that they faced before from terrorism,” said Heinbecker.

“These things come to your doorstep … so I think it’s very important that we have the opportunity to influence events.”

Colin Robertson, another former Canadian diplomat and now vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, agreed with that assessment.

“If you think of, say, the House of Commons, you move from the back-bench to sitting in the cabinet. The Security Council is essentially the cabinet for the United Nations,” Robertson said.

Canada is also one of the major beneficiaries of stable international trade, added Robertson, and by securing a seat, the country “can take an active role in helping to create and preserve that system. Instead of being a watcher, we would become an active participant.”

Additionally, membership on the council fits in with the longstanding tradition of having Canada at the table, Robertson noted, and that’s not as small a consideration as some might think.

“It’s part of what our self-identity is about, more so than other places. Britain and France have long histories, this country doesn’t have a long history. But the history we do have is, in part, as a player on the international scene.”

Conservatives will support bid

Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent said his party will support the Liberal government’s efforts to regain a seat on the Security Council in 2021, but “we would hope that the government doesn’t compromise the principled foreign policy positions that our government took, and which contributed in large part to our lack of success in 2010.”

The Conservatives have always contended that Canada lost out to Portugal because the Harper government took unpopular stands on gay rights in Africa, staunchly defended Israel and flagged human rights issues in countries like Sri Lanka.

“There were a number of countries who … in the end, on the day of the vote, those votes when elsewhere,” Kent said.



Comments Off on Canada Seeks UN Security Council Seat

UN at 70

CTV News Omar Sachedina interview on UN at 70


Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 8.07.17 AM

Comments Off on UN at 70

Canada and Peacekeeping

Canada can and should do more to support peacekeeping

In an age of displacements created by protracted conflicts, increasingly within states rather than between states, there is an urgent need for peacekeepers. The core principles of peacekeeping – voluntary contributions, consent of all parties, impartiality – still apply. But peace operations are now more complex.

The UN is increasingly mandated where there is no peace to keep. The UN must operate where there are no identifiable parties with which to negotiate. Peacekeepers face asymmetric and unconventional threats requiring them to be flexible, adaptable and mobile.

As first responders, peacekeepers work closely with humanitarian and relief organizations. Peacekeepers set up camps for the displaced, organize fresh water and sanitation, and get civilians out of harm’s way. Peacekeepers police crime, including traffickers and smugglers of people and illicit goods.

Twenty years after the Srebrenica massacres and the Rwandan genocide, hauntingly captured in Romeo Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil, these experiences have taught lessons. Peacekeepers are now given clearer mandates to protect civilians and clearer authority to use force. For UN commanders, decisiveness and good local relationships are critical elements in peacekeeping.

There are currently 16 UN sponsored peacekeeping missions, involving more than 120,000 personnel, including 90,000 troops and more than 13,000 police. Two-thirds of UN peacekeeping missions operate in conflict zones. An additional 22,000 are involved in the African-Union-led peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Secretary-General Ban says the requirement for peacekeepers will only increase.

Canada may not have invented peacekeeping but we were instrumental in its development. Canadians monitored the truce in Palestine (1948) and Kashmir (1949). During the 1956 Suez crisis, we helped broker the creation of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). For his efforts Lester Pearson earned the Nobel Peace Prize. Between 1956-2006, more than 120,000 Canadians served in over 50 missions from Cambodia to Congo. More than 25,000 Canadians rotated through Cyprus from 1964-1993.

Our peacekeeping commitment has declined. Today 112 Canadians are involved in various operations including an officer in the Sinai and Cyprus.

Critics, with some justification, argued that peacekeepers had become long-term band-aids to what should be diplomatic solutions. Fair or not, white soldiers confronting angry Africans or Asians also evokes complaints about neo-colonialism. Others argue that our military should first defend the homeland, then our continental and collective security obligations. They are right and peacekeeping complements all of these goals.

Then there is the cost argument.

The UN peacekeeping budget this year is $8.27-billion (U.S.), less than a half of one per cent of the $1.75-trillion that nations spend annually on arms. Developed nations – USA, Japan, France, Germany, U.K. – are the top peacekeeping financiers with Canada in 9th place.

The UN compensation for peacekeepers is about $1,100 a month. It costs considerably more for developed nations to field troops overseas. To keep a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan cost $525,000 (Canadian) annually.

Developing nations now supply most peacekeepers. Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Rwanda and Nepal field more than 5,000 each. At a summit on UN peacekeeping hosted last September by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden (Canada did not participate) Mexico announced it will now join peace operations.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told defence chiefs “when peacekeeping missions are deployed in post-conflict situations, countries are 50 per cent less likely to experience renewed conflict.” Representing all 193 member states, the blue berets possess unique legitimacy.

Canada can and should do more to support peacekeeping.

First, revive the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre that was closed for budgetary reasons in 2013. During its two decades of operations it trained more than 18,000, representing 150 nations. As Romeo Dallaire observes, peacekeepers always face ethical, moral and legal dilemma. Training, especially on working with local populations, is essential.

Second, we bring professionalism to peace operations. We are good at logistics, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Royal Canadian Air Force lift capacity was recently used for peace operations in Mali. Our Special Forces are very good. The requirement for rapid response obliges our next government to prioritize Forces readiness.

In putting forward the UN resolution creating UNEF, Mr. Pearson told the General Assembly, “We need action not only to end the fighting but to make the peace.” Etched into Canada’s peacekeeping memorial, Mr. Pearson’s words should inspire the Canadian voice at the peacekeeping summit.

Comments Off on Canada and Peacekeeping

Global Food Challenges

How Canada has a role in feeding the world

Malthus, the 18th century scholar-cleric, warned that population growth would outpace food production resulting in mass starvation. But Malthus and his apocalyptic apostles failed to account for human ingenuity, the market economy’s incentives, and government safety nets.

As a result, the UN Millennium Summit goal of halving those who suffer from hunger has been achieved. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), global malnourishment has dropped from 23.3 per cent (1990) to 12.9 per cent (2014).

In its recent The State of Food Insecurity the FAO reports that while 796 million people remain undernourished, it is 216 million less than in 1990. During that same period the global population grew from 5.2 to 7 billion. Out of 129 developing countries 72 have reached their Millennium Development hunger target.

This remarkable progress is a result of scientific ingenuity. The postwar Green Revolution significantly increased the production of grains: rice, wheat, pulse, lentils and, most of all, corn. Calories became much more available and at cheaper cost, making an appreciable reduction in hunger.

Innovation has not stopped. We now have meta-yielding, disease-resistant seeds. The application of technologies, like GPS in planting and harvesting, makes a difference. We make better use of water and fertilizers. Food processing and distribution are more efficient, allowing longer storage of fruits and vegetables without spoilage.

The global trading system helps. Getting goods quickly to destinations acts as a shock absorber in time of crisis. Innovation in refrigeration and containerization creates more choice at lower cost.

Still, one in eight goes to bed hungry each night. Hunger thrives in instability and current conflicts have created over 50 million displaced persons – the most since the Second World War.

For nations, especially in the Middle East and Africa, better domestic food production is also handicapped by low productivity and lack of access to markets and food processing. Technological improvements are less accessible because of proprietary restrictions, expense or because they don’t know how to use them.

Climate change is exacerbating the age-old complaints of pests and disease, flood and drought.

Farmers need help in learning the basics of soil rehabilitation through better irrigation and crop rotation. Of the 570 million worldwide farms, the FAO report says more than 90 per cent are managed and worked by an individual or a family. Most of these farms are less than 2 hectares yet they produce more than 80 per cent of the world’s food.

Then there is the problem of what we eat.

Fast food, rich in carbohydrates and sugars, is quick and cheap. Meals with vitamins and minerals take longer and cost more. Poor nutrition – causing obesity and hypertension leading to diabetes – especially afflicts minorities and First Nations. Canadians need to cut down on salt and sugar.

But there’s encouraging news: Canadians, where one in four is considered obese, and Americans, where one in three is considered obese, are starting to eat less and eat better. In 1998 Americans drank 40 gallons of full-calorie soda but in 2014 the figure had dropped to 30 gallons.

Education is key. We need to devote more attention to food literacy: food preparation and the nutritional value of what we are eat. What used to be called “home economics” in school has as much application for men as women and should be made mandatory. Programs like Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move and a focus on school lunches are steps in the right direction. Canada’s Food Guide is still useful but it needs smarter distribution.

Canada was once the “breadbasket” to the world. With our growing production in pulse, pork and beef, we are poised, after we reform supply management in poultry and dairy production, to help feed the world.

Canada’s Lester B. Pearson was one of the architects of the FAO, the first permanent UN-specialized, functional organization. As he told its inaugural conference (1945) in Quebec City, the FAO is “helping nations to achieve freedom from want.”

Hunger is still a challenge requiring continuing multilateral efforts. National governments need to emphasize diet literacy and the value of exercise in schools to meet the challenges of malnourishment and obesity. Eating habits need to change: less carbs, more greens.

So far we’ve proved Malthusian prognostications wrong. With education, ingenuity and multilateral collaboration, there is reason for optimism.

Comments Off on Global Food Challenges

Canada, the UN and the UN Charter

Why Canada should move the UN into the limelight

Usually the Harper government does not miss an opportunity to mark significant anniversaries. To its credit, the Harper government has incorporated a strong historical component into the civic liturgy that aspirant citizens must learn.

In a country as young and diverse as Canada, celebrating our heritage moments are important in the development of shared national identity. Two world wars, involving valour and sacrifice, propelled Canada from colony to nation and thence to middle power. As the Second World War drew to a close, our diplomats – notably Lester Pearson, Escott Reid, Norman Robertson, Hume Wrong– laboured with fellow diplomats “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” as the preamble to the UN Charter would later state.

Canada had two objectives in San Francisco: first, acknowledgment that middle powers deserved differentiation in treatment. Second, recognition that competence or “functionalism,” rather than mere size, should weigh in representation to the specialized agencies dealing with food, health, refugees, education and culture, economics and social policy.

The Charter acknowledged both Canadian objectives.

While the big powers achieved permanent place on the Security Council, there would be no concert of great powers. The Security Council would include additional, temporary members selected regionally, thus giving positional opportunity to the middle powers. Membership in the General Assembly was based on one nation, one vote.

The Canadians’ work in San Francisco during the late spring and early summer of 1945 was not without diversion. In perhaps the funniest diary entry in his The Siren Years, Charles Ritchie records a visit to a ranch-cum-brothel in the company of unappreciative colleagues.

Canadian diplomacy developed a reputation in following years as the helpful fixer and a bridge between big and small, east and west, north and south. Canadian John Humphreys was instrumental in designing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Canadians helped to broker the compromise admitting both Soviet bloc and post-colonial nations (1955). For his pivotal role in devising the peacekeeping formula resolving the Suez crisis, Mr. Pearson earned the Nobel Peace Prize (1957).

Peacekeeping has evolved but the blue berets still have a popular hold on the Canadian psyche because they reflect how we see ourselves, and want to be seen, internationally.

When the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to UN peacekeepers, more than 80,000 past and present members of the Canadian Armed Forces could share in the honour. On Ottawa’s Sussex Drive, the statueReconciliation – commemorates peacekeeping.

Sadly, we no longer share our expertise on peace operations. The doors to the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre were closed in 2013. Through 20 years of operation, it provided training for more than 18,000 peacekeepers from more than 150 countries.

Global peacekeeping operations are more active than ever before. More than 130,000 blue berets are engaged in 16 operations, mostly in Africa and the Middle East. The UN budget for peacekeeping is just over $7-billion, less than half of 1 per cent of world military expenditures. Canada ranks ninth in financial contributors but there are currently only 115 Canadians engaged in UN peacekeeping.

To mark Canada’s contribution to the UN Charter and the United Nations, the Harper government could do the following:

First, restore the bronze statue of Mr. Pearson and his Nobel Peace Prize to pride of place in our Foreign Ministry headquarters. At the same time, restore the Alfred Pellan paintingsCanada West, Canada East – to the front lobby. The gargantuan photograph of the Queen would not be out of place in Kim Jong-un’s Hermit Kingdom but it fails Walter Bagehot’s “dignified capacity” test of constitutional monarchy.

Second, Prime Minister Stephen Harper should break from electioneering and speak at September’s General Assembly about the role of middle powers and the enduring relevance of functionalism. He should announce that Canada will seek election to the Security Council in 2017 as the champion of middle powers.

Third, given Canadian experience, we should respond affirmatively to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s appeal for peacekeepers by reactivating the training programs of our peace and security operations.

The UN has never achieved the aspirations of its founders. It remains a work in progress and that progress depends on the collective will of its individual members. But its achievements far outweigh its shortcomings, especially in the work of its functional agencies. A part of Canadian heritage, the UN deserves our continued support and recognition.

Comments Off on Canada, the UN and the UN Charter

The International Order: Syria, UN and Canada

The road to a better world order begins in our own backyard

Special to The Globe and Mail Thursday, Sep. 12 2013

Arguments about intervention aside, the Syrian episode raises a bigger question: How do we restore trust in our elected governments, our domestic democratic institutions, and the liberal international order?

Angst in democracies is not new.

In the 1930s, the democracies were threatened by collectivist totalitarian movements and the international order withered away. This is not the problem today. Neither is it the kind of ungovernability – the ‘crisis of the state’ – that the Trilateral Commission worried about in the 1970s.

Survey after survey demonstrate a lack of public trust in government. This is mirrored by a similar disappointment in the United Nations.

It is not that we lack democratic energies.

On both sides of the Atlantic there is active citizen engagement on issues like climate change, gender equality and gay rights. But the formal institutions of government are in atrophy. There is no active movement for institutional reform or constitutional adjustment. UN reform is an oxymoron.

The Democratic Disconnect: Citizenship and Accountability in the Transatlantic Community’, recently released by the Transatlantic Academy, with contributors from Europe, the U.S. and Canada, assesses the economic, political and demographic challenges confronting the democracies.

Gridlock and polarization, say the authors, characterizes the United States. In Europe, institutional stalemate goes beyond the financial crisis. Canadians, they write “worry about the tendency of their political system to place largely unaccountable power in the hands of the prime minister.”

In terms of the international order, the report identifies three trends:

First, the increasing public disillusionment with military interventions and their conviction that problems at home should be the priority;

Second, the steady rise of, and co-ordination between, a group of new states, some democratic and others authoritarian. Often led by the BRICs, they enjoy the benefits of the liberal international order but they aren’t as ready to support its institutions;

Third, there is exhaustion with multilateralism in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

All three phenomena were evident in the June meeting of the G8 and in last week’s St. Petersburg G20.

The upshot is disequilibrium within the international system. Fatigue grows. Isolationism beckons.

So what to do?

The first step, the authors argue, begins at home. Public Institutions have to reconnect with their citizens. The authors argue that political parties are the critical building block and that leaders need to spend more time in actively engaging their citizens.

Reinvigorating our democratic institutions, argues the report, will revitalize the liberal international order.

Liberal democracies have always promoted institutions of international co-operation and governance in tandem with domestic innovation because they are “profoundly interdependent”. Break this link and the authors describe a pivot away from universal and multilateral institutions toward forms of minilateralism and exclusivity.

It’s an interesting argument.

We know what happened when the liberal world order broke down in the first half of the last century. There are war graves across Europe and Asia that attest to our commitment and sacrifice to restore international order.

It took decades of careful statecraft to create the architecture designed to ensure peace and security. In creating the United Nations and its various agencies, Canadians were active and present because it reflected our values and served our interests.

The United Nations has never met the high expectations of its creators and efforts at reform have fallen short.

Yet we now look to UNICEF and the UNHCR to take leadership in dealing with the Syrian refugees. We turn to the Security Council for a peaceful solution. UN weapons inspectors are preparing the report that will guide their action. A little known UN agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, will take the lead in disposing of Syria’s chemical weapons. In time, the perpetrators of the crimes will face either divine justice or the International Criminal Court.

There will be bumps on the road to Damascus. Armed intervention is still on the table. In the meantime, the machinery of international order is at work.

As they draft Canada’s remarks to this year’s General Assembly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird should keep in mind the enduring utility of the UN and its institutions.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.

More Related to this Story



Video: Syrians in Damascus relieved over easing of tensions



Video: Americans accept Obama’s Syrian concerns, still unsure about action



Video: UN says Obama’s bid to Congress on Syria is part of push for consensus

Comments Off on The International Order: Syria, UN and Canada

John Baird’s Dignity Agenda

John Baird’s ‘dignity agenda’ an idealistic notion that just might work
Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Wednesday Jun 05 2013
Despite other Ottawa distractions, Foreign Minister John Baird’s ‘dignity agenda’ is slowly taking shape. It might just become one of the Harper government’s lasting contributions to Canadian foreign policy.
Framed last fall in speeches delivered in Montreal, in the United Nations General Assembly in New York and in Quebec City, the message is clear and tweetable: people deserve the “dignity to live in freedom, in peace and to provide for one’s family.” It specifically defends women, children and gay people. Its simplicity recalls, not without coincidence, Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.
It neatly avoids the tiresome argument between values and interests by underlining that “doing what is morally right is in our national interest.”
Its roots are bipartisan, openly acknowledging both Louis St. Laurent, who laid the foundations for modern Canadian foreign policy, and Brian Mulroney for his work in Africa, especially South Africa. The dignity divide is not left versus right but rather between open and closed.
If it is to succeed, the dignity agenda will need to demonstrate the kind of tangible accomplishments that former foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy’s human security agenda achieved, notably the landmark Treaty on Land Mines and the creation of the International Criminal Court.
For now, the dignity agenda is a combination of policy instruments – such as the creation of the Ambassador for Religious Freedom – and actions, including targetted sanctions on Iran.
Then there is ‘direct diplomacy.’
Demonstrated recently at Toronto’s Munk Centre, Ottawa’s Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran used social media – Facebook and Twitter – as both amplifier and intervenor into the conversation. Designed to encourage open discussion in the lead-up to Iran’s June elections, Mr. Baird told his audience, including an estimated 350,000 in Iran, that they “have a friend in Canada.”
If foreign policy covers a spectrum from idealist to realist, Mr. Baird’s is firmly in the idealist camp. And indeed, realists can question the efficacy of the dignity agenda.
Morality and foreign policy “is a subject much wanting in thought” observed the American historian Gertrude Himmelfarb. Of necessity, international politics depends on hard power both as last resort and as first responder in time of disaster. Soft power can too easily settle into easy, ineffectual preachiness.
U.S. Secretary of Dean Acheson once likened Canadian moralizing to the “stern daughter of the voice of God.” Our own International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Rights & Democracy) eventually ate itself – a lesson in the best of intentions going badly awry.
But experience demonstrates that, after the fact, whether in Burma, South Africa or Central Europe, dissidents say that one of the things that kept them going was knowledge that someone – somewhere – cared about their plight.
Nelson Mandela praised Canada for having maintained our “support for the forces of democracy at a critical time in a transition whose outcome was never guaranteed.”
Mr. Mandela specifically identified the Canadian International Development Agency for having given millions of South Africans access to things that most Canadians would take for granted – clean water, housing and electricity – “but which have been only a dream to the majority of South Africans.”
The government should remember this as it re-integrates CIDA into the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
While putting the emphasis on trade as the economic engine for sustainable development is correct, dignity also includes a safety net for those who need a hand-up and for the sick, young and elderly. And any state that does not address the condition of women and girls can neither be prosperous nor secure.
It is still early days for the Baird dignity agenda. Skeptics will question whether the Canadian Office of Religious Freedom has more to do with appeasing the evangelical base of the Conservative Party.
It took months to find an Ambassador for Religious Freedom. The man they found, Andrew Bennett, has made pronouncements to date that have been pointed, targeted and frequent. He needs to go beyond the condemnatory and offer something with soul. His U.S. counterpart produces an annual evaluation of religious freedom. Why not a Canadian perspective?
We are, arguably, the world’s most successful pluralist society. We have faults. Look at Statistics Canada’s grim reports on the situation of First Nations women and children. But, comparatively, Canada works.
The Aga Khan established the Global Centre for Pluralism in Canada because he felt our national experience “made it a natural home for this venture.”
To see diversity as an opportunity rather than burden, observed the Aga Khan, is a permanent work in progress requiring concerted, deliberate efforts to build social institutions and cultural habits which take account of difference. The aim is not perfection but decency and mutual respect – in short, dignity for individuals and the collective.

Making the dignity agenda a Canadian export is a worthy objective, consistent with our values and interests. It should also serve to remind us that there is still much work to do at home.

More Related to this Story

Comments Off on John Baird’s Dignity Agenda

A Primer on Canada and the UN

From Ipolitics October 1 2012  A Short Primer on Canada and the UN

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird is scheduled to deliver Canada’s address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this week.  He will be joining presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers from around the world who began descending on New York last week to speak to the 67th session.

What is on this year’s agenda?

The agenda covers the waterfront of issues but four that will gather headlines are:

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s nuclear program: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the General Assembly last week that it is “getting late” to stop Iran and called on nations to place “a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” In his UNGA remarks last week President Obama said, “A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” The President, observed former US Ambassador Nicholas Burns, has come down, “on the side of diplomacy and negotiations backed up by sanctions and the threat of force.”

Syria and the estimated 25,000 people killed in recent months: The Security Council is divided with the Russians and the Chinese not supporting any overt move to aid the rebels or to intervene militarily by the United States. In his remarks last week, President Obama reiterated the call for Bashar al-Assad to leave power but as Richard Haas, president of the Council of Foreign Relations noted, “there’s a gap between American goals, which is to see the regime and leadership go, and American means, which are quite, quite, quite limited.”

Millennium Agenda: What next for the UN antipoverty agenda? For the past twelve years the millennium development goals (MDGs) have channeled hundreds of millions of dollars of aid money with effect – millions in China and India are now over the threshold, and in improving access to clean water, primary education and maternal and child health care. But the goals now need to be renewed and there is pressure to have the next iteration include sustainable development. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has appointed a 26-member panel of eminent persons to advise him on the global agenda after 2015 and they are expected to submit a report in the first half of 2013.

Palestine: Last year there was an intense debate around the Palestinian bid for UN membership, an initiative thwarted by the US with Canadian support. However, in his UNGA speech last week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said consultations are under way to upgrade, by the end of this year, the Palestinian U.N. status from observer to that of ‘nonmember state’. This is less than what was sought last year but it could still create potential problems – the US Congress has legislated against support for UN agencies with Palestinian membership.

What about Canada and the United Nations?

Canada is the seventh largest contributor to the UN. Canadians were present and active participants at the San Francisco Conference in June1945 that created the UN. We earned our reputation as a helpful fixer and bridge-builder based on our multilateral work. Peacekeeping was a useful Canadian innovation, in response to the Suez crisis of 1956. Canadians justly take pride peacekeeping but our larger contribution to the UN  far exceeds this particular initiative. Preacekeeping reflected a special time and place, yet it tends to overshadow our work in other vital areas.

The principle underlying Canada’s contribution is functionalism. As practiced by Louis St. Laurent and L.B. Pearson, it means finding our niche, based on national interests and expertise, and then doing our best. In recent years we were architects of the Responsibility To Protect doctrine and we were leaders in the campaign against land mines, child soldiers and in the creation of the International Criminal Court.

In 2010 we sought a seat on the Security Council, in competition with Germany and Portugal, as part of the Western Europe and Other Group (WEOG). We withdrew after placing third on the first ballot. It occasioned a great deal of angst amongst critics who faulted the Harper Government for waging an inept campaign and who decried what they described as a strident, unbalanced approach to foreign policy.

As Denis Stairs argues in Being Rejected in the United Nations, our loss probably has as much to do with the evolution and solidarity of the European Union. We would be better to recognize geography and transfer ourselves from the WEOG to the Americas. This year Australia, also part of the WEOG, is seeking a seat along with Finland and Luxembourg. The backing of 129 countries – or a two-thirds majority – is needed to win a two-year stint on the council. The result in the secret ballot is notoriously difficult to predict.

Prime Minister Harper last delivered the Canadian address to UNGA in 2010 in support of our UN Security Council bid. In his remarks the Prime Minister underlined the need for “enlightened sovereignty, the idea that what’s good for others may well be the best way to pursue one’s own interests.  In business, it is called win-win.  And it is good for business.  In international affairs, it is good for development and for justice.  And it is in the spirit of the UN Charter.”

As an indication of themes that will be addressed in this year’s address by Foreign Minister Baird, look back at his address last year to the UNGA. He elaborated on the theme of ‘enlightened sovereignty’ saying, “Multilateral institutions and multilateral action result from a collection of sovereign decisions based on individual states’ own interests: Not narrow self-interest in sovereignty’s name, but an expanded view of mutual interest in which there is room for all to grow and to prosper.”

Baird also noted that, “Canada does not just “go along” in order to “get along.” We will “go along” only if we “go” in a direction that advances Canada’s values: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law…The Second World War taught us all the tragic price of “going along” just to “get along.” It was accommodation and appeasement that allowed fascism to gather strength. As Winston Churchill said: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” We respect state sovereignty, but Canada will not “go along” or look the other way when a minority is denied its human rights or fundamental freedoms.”

On the issue of Palestine Mr. Baird said, “Our government’s position has been clear—the only solution to this issue is one that is negotiated by the two parties themselves.“ On Israel, he was equally clear: “We uphold Israel’s right to exist. We uphold its fundamental right, like any member state, to defend innocent civilians against acts of terrorism,“ declaring that “Canada will not accept or stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory and its citizens.”

Baird also announced that the Government would establish an Office of Religious Freedom to “promote freedom of religion and freedom of conscience as key objectives of Canadian foreign policy.” He also called for UN reform based on the principles of:

  • accountability, transparency and ethics;
  • financial responsibility and fiscal austerity;
  • efficiency and the elimination of waste and duplication;
  • regular reviews to sunset unnecessary, redundant and obsolete mandates; and
  • zero tolerance for conflicts of interest, fraud and corruption.

Look also for Mr. Baird to elaborate on the theme of his recent (September 14) speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations describing what he called the  “Government’s principled, values-based foreign policy, steeped in the conviction that, as a free nation, we must promote and protect the fundamental liberties of people around the world”. A key premise of this policy, said Baird, is respect for the rights of women and “the role of the state to protect its people regardless of gender, sexuality or faith.”

Baird will also likely draw inspiration from Prime Minister Harper’s remarks to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation last week in New York where he was honored as World Statesman of the Year. Mr. Harper declared that governments must aim, “to be good world citizens, to try to understand other points of view and to act in concert with our partners, for the wider interests of humanity. That is, of course, not the same thing, friends, as trying to court every dictator with a vote at the United Nations or just going along with every emerging international consensus, no matter how self-evidently wrong-headed. When confronted with evil in the world, we do take a stand, we take strong, principled positions in our dealings, whether popular or not. And that is what the world has counted on from Canada – and received – in two world wars, in Korea, in a generation of peacekeeping operations, Gulf War One, and of course, most recently in Afghanistan and also in Libya.”

Background on the United Nations

With a current membership of 193 states, the UN is the big enchilada of international organizations. As defined by its Charter, the purpose of the UN is threefold:

  1. to maintain international peace and security;
  2. to develop friendly relations among nations; and
  3. to cooperate internationally in solving economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character, and in promoting respect for human rights.

The actions of the United Nations are based on certain principles:

  • all of its members are equal;
  • all members must fulfill their Charter obligations ie to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security;
  • international disputes are to be settled by peaceful means;
  • members may not use force or the threat of force against other members;
  • members must help the United Nations in any action it might take in accordance with the Charter;
  • the United Nations may not interfere in the domestic affairs of any state.

It scope and scale the UN constitutes its own planetary system. Its main office is in New York City’s Turtle Bay facing the East River. Within it the General Assembly of all 193-member states meets from mid-September to mid-December. It’s the talking shop and from the General Assembly emerges resolutions ranging from the sensible – campaigns to combat AIDs, to the stupid – Zionism as racism. The resolutions have no practical application, although they can carry moral weight.

The fifteen-member Security Council is the ‘decider’. It is in permanent session to deal with issues of peace and security. The five permanent members: the US, China, Russia, Britain, and France are joined by another ten elected on regional lines, who serve two-year terms. Various efforts have been made to reform this 1945 hierarchy of powers, but without success.

Attention tends to focus mostly on the Security Council and General Assembly but the strength and substantive work of the UN takes place in its galaxy of over 200 specialized agencies. In addition to the International Court of Justice, Economic and Social Council, and Trusteeship Council, these include the Food and Agriculture Organization (Canadians played a key role in its creation), the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Program, the International Atomic Energy Association.

All of this is supported by a Secretariat headed by a Secretary General who is elected by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. The UN budget is set by the General Assembly with ‘contributions’ of member states based on a formula that does not reflect current realities. The US provides about ¼ of funding with another ¼ coming from Japan, Germany, France and Britain. ‘Developing’ countries, including China, pay considerably less. Like the make-up of the Security Council, who pays what is in urgent need of reform.

Further Reading:

For current news on the UN go to the UN New Centre. For information on Canada, start with the very good DFAIT website on our UN presence. It has a wealth of useful information, including a collection of speeches outlining Canada’s position on the many issues addressed within the UN family. Scholar and CDFAI Senior Distinguished Fellow Denis Stairs looks at Canada’s UN Security Council defeat in Being Rejected in the United Nations.

Several Canadian ambassadors have written about their UN or UN-related experiences. A Season in Hell Is a harrowing tale of kidnap in West Africa while on a UN mission by former UN Ambassador and CDFAI Advisory Council member Robert Fowler. MP and Parliamentary Secretary Chris Alexander writes of his Afghan experience while serving as Canadian ambassador and later UN envoy in The Long Way Back. Scholar and former diplomat Paul Heinbecker draws on his experience as Canadian Ambassador to the UN in Getting Back in the Game.  Former Secretary General Kofi Annan has just published a memoir Interventions: A Life in War and Peace that describes his half century of service to the United Nations and critically discusses recent conflicts, including his unsuccessful mission to Syria.

Comments Off on A Primer on Canada and the UN