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Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he was 'pleasantly surprised' by the support he received for Canada’s Security Council campaign – a Security Council meeting seen here on Nov. 20, 2019 – during meetings with leaders in Morocco and Mali this week.

Mary Altaffer/The Associated Press

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne says he is “cautiously optimistic” about Canada’s bid for a United Nations Security Council seat, after multiple visits by Canadian officials to vote-rich Africa.

Speaking to reporters from Rabat on Friday, Mr. Champagne said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the support he received for Canada’s Security Council campaign during meetings with leaders in Morocco and Mali this week. Canada is competing against Norway and Ireland for one of 10 rotating, non-permanent seats on the UN’s most powerful branch in 2021-22.

“People realize that Canada has a positive voice in the world and I think that the world wants to see more of Canada. That’s certainly the takeaway I got from the people that I’ve met here in Africa," Mr. Champagne said.

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Canada’s campaign has kicked into high gear, as the 193 UN member states prepare to cast their secret ballots this June. African member states account for 54 votes – nearly 28 per cent – of the vote, making the continent one of the biggest voting blocs.

Mr. Champagne’s visit to Mali and Morocco comes on the heels of other trips to Africa by Canadian officials this month: International Development Minister Karina Gould travelled to the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while Rob Oliphant, Mr. Champagne’s parliamentary secretary, visited Sudan, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

Although Mr. Champagne said he is making “Africa a priority,” he did not indicate whether he or any of his colleagues secured guaranteed support from any countries during their visits.

Canada has stiff competition on two fronts that matter to African countries: peacekeeping and foreign aid. Ireland outshines its competitors on the peacekeeping front, with one of the highest per capita troop contributions to UN peacekeeping operations. Norway excels on the international aid front, contributing 0.94 per cent of its gross national income to development assistance in 2018, compared with just 0.28 per cent in Canada.

Mr. Champagne said that while countries can always do more, it’s not only the number of peacekeepers or dollar amounts for foreign aid, but also the “outcome" of those efforts.

“The feedback that I get from the people I’ve been talking to, civil society leaders, ministers, whether it’s in Mali or even in Morocco, I think that people greatly appreciate what we bring and particularly what we bring in terms of governance, in terms of institutions, in terms of peace building,” Mr. Champagne said.

The minister said countries also see value in Canada’s place in a number of a global alliances, including the G20, G7, the Francophonie, Commonwealth and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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