So Canada didn’t make it onto the UN’s Security Council and pundits across our nation all seem to have a reason why we were denied this prestigious position in favour of financial basket case, Portugal. Apparently, in the run-up to the vote, Canadian officials in New York were telling anyone who would listen that they were confident of victory. And the U.S. State Department even rated our chances as a “sure thing.”
Does it really matter? Probably does. The UN is a severely damaged institution with, for example, an incredibly obnoxious United Nations Human Rights Council, which is controlled by a bloc of Islamic and African states, backed by China, Cuba and Russia, who protect each other from criticism. Nevertheless, the U.N. is the closest we have to a world government, warts and all. And the Security Council is the inner cabinet around which table the hard policies are set and most important decisions are made.
Canada is a founding member and significant financial supporter of the U.N. It has served on the Security Council in each decade since the U.N. was founded. Canada is a G7 nation, it is also a larger, richer and more internationally proactive country than is Portugal. Canada is economically stable while Portugal is in desperate economic straights and is likely to need international assistance in the near future. If measured purely on merit, Canada would win over the Portuguese Republic on virtually every objective point of comparison.
Some say Canada does not help itself by being so supportive of Israel, so disparaging of the U.N.’s discredited Human Rights Council, so restrained in the embracing of the various initiatives to curb global warming/climate change. Others say Canada is not warm enough in its relationship with China.
Some point to the fact we’ve never lived up to former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s promise of 40-plus years ago to give 0.7 per cent of GDP to foreign aid (a goal adopted by the U.N. for its richest member states). We are somewhere about 0.33 per cent of GDP, but Portugal is well behind us in terms both of percentage of GDP and absolute dollars, so how could this have hurt us in a vote runoff against that country?
But does any of this even matter? There are only two seats allocated to the group in which Canada finds itself: the so-called Western Europe and Others bloc, which includes Western European nations, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. With the Arab states (57-member Organization of Islamic Conference) and their supporters lined up against us and with the European Union (27 member states) voting for their own, that’s 84 of 192 votes lost before the voting starts. What real chance does our country have?
The United States would probably vote for us and, I assume, so would Israel. Perhaps we can add Haiti to that list and maybe a few other Caribbean nations. Beyond those, who can we really count on? We do not belong to any exclusive groups such as the EU nations do. We and Mexico are fellow members of NAFTA, but that’s unlikely to secure Mexico’s vote if we were, for example, up against Spain in a future vote.
So does this mean Canada’s term of influence at the U.N. is over? Will we no longer (assuming we ever did) hit above our weight there? Probably, at least, for the foreseeable future.
Should Canada formalize an association with the European Union as is being contemplated, this could shift a few more votes our way. But in the absence of any large voting bloc in which Canada could become a member, it’s unlikely we be on the Security Council any time soon.
Unless, of course, we trade our principles for the seat. We could, for example, be much cooler to Israel, sign up for every nutty international environmental initiative, really cozy up to China, ignoring its horrible human rights record, radically increase our foreign aid to poorer countries and join the cheering section for the U.N.’s Human Rights Council.
A Stephen Harper government is not likely to do these things—except, perhaps, for increasing foreign aid—but a Michael Ignatieff-led one might very well do all of those things, especially if they had to rely on the New Democrats to keep power.