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Voices of Canada

Not All Roads Lead Everyone to UN Security Council

January 26, 2015

IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis (Republished courtesy of IDN Indept News – Analysis That Matters)

TORONTO (IDN) – While India is relishing its success in having made it to the United Nations Security Council, official Canada is licking its wounds after being defeated in a passionate bid to rub shoulders with the powerful and the emerging. India is back at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) after a gap of 19 years as a rotating non-permanent member for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2011. This is India’s seventh term, first time in 1950 and the last one was in 1991-1992. Describing it as a “big day for Indian diplomacy”, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters in New Delhi that it was a reaffirmation of India’s support in the UN, as well as a “reflection of the expectations the world has from us”. He was speaking minutes after India received 187 out of 190 votes cast, the highest among the candidates for election. With India the two countries, elected unopposed, are South Africa and Colombia as their respective regional groups put up only a single candidate each. For two seats of the Western European and Others Group, Germany won in the first round and Portugal after the second round. The five new countries will be replacing Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda. “India will discharge its obligations as a responsible member of the international community by remaining fully and actively engaged on all issues before the Council,” Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s envoy to the UN, said, adding that this was a “ringing endorsement”. He asserted that countries like Brazil and South Africa “are expected to utilise their tenure as non-permanent members in order to facilitate longer-term permanent membership for themselves”. Responding to a question on India’s chances in the expanded Security Council at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, India’s finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “So far as the Security Council Permanent Membership is concerned, I do hope as and when the expanded Security Council along with the general reforms of the United Nations take place India’s claim for being the permanent member of the UNSC would be considered and accepted.” The Security Council’s present membership reflects the world of 1945 and has not changed over the years. Rising powers like India and an entire continent, Africa, have been excluded. The problem is that the Security Council’s membership could only be changed if all the existing members plus every members of the General Assembly reach a consensus. This means pretty much every country in the world would have to agree. HONOURABLE Canada, which was also contending in Western European and Other Group, eventually withdrew after the second round of voting as it received the least number of votes. Canada first joined the UN Security Council in 1948 and has served six terms the last one in 2000. This is the first time in 62 years it has not secured a seat on the Security Council. Those close to the vote say Canada had 136 written commitments of support from nations at the General Assembly when voting began. But Canada received only 114 votes in the first round, and by round two, the count was down to 78, forcing Ambassador John McNee to withdraw Canada’s name. Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian ambassador who joined the council in 2000, said the “problem is that countries that make a commitment consider that it only applies to the first round of voting”. In a secret ballot, there’s also the spectre of “rogue votes” cast by ambassadors who may not follow the advice of their capitals. “Some (ambassadors) are very aware of foreign policy, and if they genuinely don’t like what we’re doing there’s a tradition of going their own way,” added Heinbecker, author of the recently published book, ‘Getting Back in the Game: A Foreign Policy Playbook for Canada’. India has been criticized for not backing Canada in its bid for a seat in the UN Security Council as it reportedly voted for Portugal. Without answering which countries India voted for, Puri said: “In successive rounds of voting Canada realised that it was not mustering the votes . . . it did what was honourable . . . it withdrew . . . what the impact of that is going to be I really don’t know . . . lets wait and see.” India’s foreign-policy priority is to be a permanent member of the Security Council. However, Canada should not feel aggrieved by India’s support for Portugal in the United Nations General Assembly vote for temporary members of the Security Council, says an editorial in a leading Canadian newspaper, Globe and Mail. “It was . . . rather part of India’s pursuit of its national interest — more particularly, its quest for a permanent seat of its own on the Security Council, which Portugal supports,” it added. Canada had reasons to hope for India’s support. The subcontinent is the second largest source of immigrants to Canada, which has a large Indian diaspora. Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited India in November 2009, and the two nations signed a nuclear energy co-operation agreement earlier this year. The Conservatives have identified its fellow Commonwealth member as a key market, as Canada seeks to pivot from the Atlantic to the Pacific in search of new, emerging markets for its resources and manufactured goods. DIVERGENT NATIONAL INTERESTS In contrast to India, whose most important priority at the UN is to be asked to join the Security Council as a permanent member – in which it is supported by Portugal — Canada opposes expanding the number of permanent members, any one of whom can veto a resolution. Instead, it supports an expanded and regionally representative group of non-permanent members on the council. However, India was not the only Asian tiger to abandon Canada this week. Informed observers speaking on background said it was virtually certain that China voted for Portugal against Canada as well. Canada’s neighbour and ally, the United States did not campaign for Canada or do anything to help rally support for another North American seat. The U.S. lack of support for Canada was payback for Brazil’s help in 2006 when it helped stop a Venezuelan bid to enable Guatemala win. Portuguese-speaking Brazil, campaigned hard for Portugal, because of its special relationship with them. The U.S. had to stay neutral. It is well-know that in 2009 Prime Minister Harper missed the UN General Assembly and instead went on a tour at Tim Hortons plant in Oakville. The Rideau Institute’s Steven Staples commented: “We can’t get a Security Council seat from Tim Hortons. … Prime Minister Stephen Harper may regret snubbing the UN for so long. Now we know if you ignore the world long enough — it will eventually notice.” Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae says the Prime Minister’s double-double diplomacy backfired: “Mr. Harper will have to take some responsibility for the loss at the Security Council. Maybe going for that chocolate glazed and the double double rather than speaking at the UN wasn’t such a great idea.” Liberal Party leader, Michael Ignatieff, was blamed for the loss. In a memo circulated to MPs and supporters, Conservative strategists wrote: “In the lead-up to the United Nations Security Council vote, when given a chance to support Canada’s bid for a seat, Michael Ignatieff chose to undermine it by falsely stating that Canada ‘ignored the United Nations’ and asked ‘has this government earned that place [on the Security Council]?” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon was speaking the same words to reporters at a post-losing-the-vote press conference: “Our opponents could point to the fact that for the first time in Canadian history, Canada was not united in its bid.” Ignatieff, however, dismissed the criticism: “The blame game is a sign of a government that is unwilling to absorb the lessons of defeat.” In his response to the outcome, Ignatieff further commented that after four years of Conservative government “the sad reality is that too many countries have lost faith in the way Canada conducts its international relations”. The left-wing New Democrats said “an overhaul of Conservative government’s foreign policy” was needed. Jack Layton, Leader of the New Democratic Party, called “for an overhaul of Conservative government’s foreign policy”. “It is time for a new approach that recognizes the common challenges that threaten global peace and security,” he added. THE BLAME GAME Many reasons have been given for Canada’s failure to get backing for its bid, which include unhappiness in various parts of the world with the Conservative government’s foreign aid, human rights and climate change policies, while some blamed longstanding practices at the UN that need reform. From 2006 to 2009 Canada held a seat on the UN Human Rights Council and during that period it clashed repeatedly with Islamic and other non-democratic members. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) wields 56 votes in the General Assembly and often votes as a bloc — especially on issues of particular importance to many Islamic governments, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and “religious defamation”. Joao Gomes Cravinho, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, addressed OIC member states while campaigning in New York on behalf of his country. “He basically appealed to the OIC group for their support and, in the absence of Canada doing the same, they got support from the OIC member states,” said a senior Islamic country official. who asked not to be identified. “This underlines the growing influence of the OIC group at the UN,” McParland of the National Post said, adding that, if anything, Canada’s rejection by OIC states was something of which to be proud. “Given the anti-Israel bias that pervades the UN, campaigning for a seat on the Security Council — if it requires the OIC’s approval — is the international equivalent of applying for membership at a club that bans Jews,” he wrote. Citing a list of reasons focussing on “the anti-Arab and anti-Islamic” stance of Canada, the Canadian Arab Federation called “upon all Arab and Muslim Missions at the United Nations to vote against Canada’s bid to have a seat at the UN Security Council”, reported Khaled Mouammar in Al Jazeerah in September 2010. Whatever the reasons, as former UN ambassador Yves Fortier wrote in Globe and Mail, “it can only be interpreted as a slight to Canada by the international community” and that the rejection is “a deep embarrassment for Harper”. The loss was “a slap in the face by the international community” aimed at Canada, added Fortier. Lawrence Cannon acknowledged that though Canada’s foreign policy is based on sound democratic and human rights principles it had played a role in the loss. “We will not back down from our principles that form the basis of our great country, and we will continue to pursue them on the international stage,” Cannon said. “Some would even say that, because of our attachment to those values, we lost a seat on the council. If that’s the case, then so be it.” “If the only way you could win it is to sacrifice your principles or relationships, then I think there are occasions when it’s better to lose than to win that way,” said former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. “I don’t think a seat on the Security Council at the UN, for example, is worth sacrificing some of Canada’s current principles and commitments.” David Van Praagh, a professor of journalism at Carleton University, author of ‘The Greater Game: India’s Race with Destiny and China’, wrote in Globe and Mail: “the vote was blatantly political, that it didn’t take due account of Canada’s roles in Afghanistan — a UN-authorized mission — and Haiti relief, and that the UN more than ever needs to get its act together.” However, the end-result is that Canada will not be at the Security Council in 2011-2012 where major emerging economies, including India, Brazil and South Africa, will be present. (IDN-InDepthNews/21.10.2010) Copyright © IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters Click Here for original article on IDN website