Sunday, September 26, 2010

Canada shamelessly lobbies for UN Security Council Seat..too little, too late?

By Olivia Ward, Toronto Star, September 26, 2010
Will Ottawa emerge the winner?

On the plus side, Canada is the only non-European state in the running, which might attract “fairness” and anti-European votes. After a Moscow visit by Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, Russia declared itself on side, a hint that it might carry former Soviet allies. And Ottawa’s record for weathering the recession has won acclaim, while Portugal has foundered.
But Harper’s strongly pro-Israel policy has alienated Arab countries. And although there are claims of “secret agreements” of support from some African states, those squeezed out of Canadian aid will not be in the cheering section.
Small island states at risk of disappearing as the climate changes are unimpressed with the Harper government’s stance on global warming. And Ottawa’s failure to back overwhelmingly endorsed UN measures on water as a human right and aboriginal rights has also raised eyebrows.
It is time for Canada to listen to John Ralston Saul's observation that nonentities have inhabited the External Affairs Minister's Chair for too long. There was a time, (a phrase so unwelcome in today's frenetic and "now" and "trendy" vocabularly and culture) when people of the stature of Lester Bowles Pearson not only served as Minister of External Affairs, following his post as history instructor at the University of Toronto, but also won the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the creation of a Peace Keeping role for Canadian military personnel. Canada was a leader on the world stage then and a seat on the Security Council was almost a given.
Now after decades of disinterest, both in the governments of the day and more importantly, in the minds and hearts of the voters in Canada, in what happens at the U.N. and some considerable "bushifying" of Canadian stances on world issues like global warming, and foreign aid, including the failure to attain the goal set by that same Mr. Pearson, of .07% of GDP for the total of our foreign aid commitment, and the refusal to include abortion in it the latest assault on African women whose only hope is to secure a therapeutic abortion (a treatment available to Canadian women, albeit a target of the Harper neo-cons for elimination just like the gun registry).
But in a place where quid pro quo is business as usual, there’s no free lunch. “Canada won’t have an easy time,” said Matthew Lee of the Inner City Press, who has covered the UN for more than a decade. “It has a conservative government, and this isn’t a conservative place.” (From the Olivia Ward piece noted above.)
It is the Canadian government's short-sighted, micro management of the "water rights" issue that really is galling to this observer. Why in the name of all that is reasonable, equitable, fair, just and sensible would the Harper luddites refuse to sign on to the U.N. Declaration of Clean Water Access for all peoples in the world? As a step that might interfere with the nation's right to do with its water what it chooses, the declaration is a non-issue. It clearly states that national water rights will be respected. If the Harper gang envision massive sell-offs of water to serve another of the American addictions (as we have done with the tar-sands oil project becoming the largest supplier of oil to our southern neighbours, who categorically refuse to embrace cap and trade, or higher prices for gasoline for their insatiable internal combustion engines) in the event of another Republican sweep of congress, the Canadian people, one has to hope, stand ready to draw another line in the sand in opposition to such a move.
There is also little to justify the Canadian government's washing its hands on climate change and aboriginal rights, both now fully accepted as international issues of common concern among the community of nations. This is just another bit of evidence that Canada is out of step with the world, under the current government.
Last minute shmoozing, with private dinners, and billion-dollar bills for hosting the G8/G20 last summer, and a strong banking system thanks to nothing the Harper government has ever done to create that system....that may not be enough, this time, to secure Canada a seat in the "basement" where the Security Council holds its meetings, after the renovations to the U.N. structure in the age of terror attacks.
Perhaps, the signing of the F-35 fighter jet contract with Lockheed Martin was also seen as another short-sighted, quick-fix ploy to attract positive votes for this Security Council seat, but cow-towing to the Americans in the shadow of a decade of George Bush, before Obama has had time to restore the U.S. standing in the international community fully, is not likely to be seen as a kind of insurance policy for attracting votes today that it might have been decades ago in a far different geo-political environment.
The betting here is no better than 50-50 that Canada will gain that coveted seat, inspite of the years of outstanding work by Canadians like Stephen Lewis on behalf of the U.N. on the AIDS issue in Africa.
UPDATE....Canada withdraws from seeking Security Council Seat
By Canadian Press, in Toronto Star, October 12, 2010
Canada has abruptly pulled out of its battle with Portugal for the one remaining seat on the influential United Nations Security Council.

Canada’s UN Ambassador John McNee made the surprise announcement after a second round of balloting in which Portugal received 113 votes and Canada just 78, both short of the 128 votes required for victory.
Germany claimed the other available seat with 128 of 191 ballots cast. Portugal came second with 122 votes, while Canada collected 114.

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