Skip to main content
opinion

What does the world really think of Canada? We will get one answer this June when the United Nations’ 193 members elect new non-permanent Security Council members.

Canada, Ireland and Norway are competing within our regional grouping for two seats with two-year terms beginning in January, 2021. Winners require two-thirds of the votes cast.

With five months left, it’s an open race, although some think Canada will lose. We started later than Norway and Ireland. Both have good campaigns.

Norway’s development assistance consistently averages 1 per cent of gross national income (GNI) – well above the 0.7-per-cent UN target. The Norwegian government’s recent paper on multilateralism is compelling and articulate. Ireland’s A Better World development strategy is also first-class. Emphasizing gender equality, climate action, governance and humanitarian need, it commits Ireland to achieve the 0.7-per-cent target by 2030. Irish aid is currently about 0.4 per cent. The Irish celebrate their neutrality but participate in peace operations; Ireland currently fields 623 peacekeepers while Norway deploys 135 and Canada 45. The Irish have also enlisted U2′s Bono in its bid to secure a seat.

While Canada ranks with Norway among the top 10 givers of humanitarian assistance, that aid represents just 0.26 per cent of GNI. Canada’s detailed election platform for the UN seat focuses on climate change, gender equality, peace, economic security and multilateralism. It builds on our 2018 G7 Charlevoix summit program.

The last time Canada ran for a seat, we lost to Germany and Portugal. Until then, we had run and won in every decade since 1946. Losing in 2010 was rationalized as the Stephen Harper government’s lacklustre campaign. They were ambivalent about the UN, taking perverse pride in the mantra “we don’t just go along to get along.”

We are in this race because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wanted it. What better way to demonstrate that “Canada is back?”

To win, Mr. Trudeau needs to campaign hard. Where he cannot go, he should send our former prime ministers and governors-general, former ambassadors and internationalists. We should set a date by which we will meet the 0.7-per-cent GDP development targets and make the proposed Canadian Centre for Peace, Order and Good Government a funding vehicle for our effective but impoverished development non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

A total of 129 votes are needed to win. We need to tie down the 33 votes from Latin America and the Caribbean, go after the 54 votes from Africa as well as the 53 votes from Asia and the Pacific. The Norwegians and Irish probably have most of Western Europe’s 28 votes, while the 23 from Eastern Europe are problematic. We need to cultivate our fellow members of the Commonwealth (52 votes) and la Francophonie (74 votes). While our support for Israel may deter some Muslim nations (50 votes), others are impressed by our work on behalf of the Rohingya and our refugee resettlement.

The recent African visits by Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne, International Development Minister Karina Gould and other officials need to be part of an ongoing engagement with this often “forgotten” continent. A tour before June by Mr. Trudeau should be part of the strategy, to coincide with the port visits of HMCS Shawinigan and Glace Bay.

The ground game at the UN counts because the vote is secret and cast by each nation’s ambassador. Personal relationships among the envoys matter. Canada’s ambassador, Marc-André Blanchard, is respected, but so is Ireland’s Geraldine Byrne Nason and Norway’s Mona Juul. Ms. Juul was elected in July to lead the UN’s central platform for development.

Scholar Adam Chapnick’s Canada on the UN Security Council should be read by our campaign team. It is filled with useful insights into previous campaigns and Security Council experience. Beating the drum in Ottawa, for example, helps keep the foreign diplomatic corps informed and raises Canadian awareness. Mr. Chapnick warns, however, that by personalizing the current campaign, Justin Trudeau risks making it partisan when what we need is an all-Canada effort.

And if we win? Our traditional role is that of the helpful fixer, and it is necessary. A seat will also give us ongoing access to the Chinese and Russians, which can help defrost these relationships.

A seat will require more resources – people and money – for diplomacy and development. We need embassies in hot spots such as Pyongyang and Tehran. Diplomatic relations are not a housekeeping seal of approval but the practical means for conducting business. The Iranian plane-crash tragedy is a reminder of the utility of having diplomats in difficult places.

Losing in 2020 would be traumatic for the Trudeau government and a rude shock to Canadians’ international self-image. We need to put our campaign into high gear and make it an all-Canada effort.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct