On March 16 at the United Nations the Liberal government announced its bid to fill one of five non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council in 2021. Prime Minister Trudeau held a meeting in the lobby of the United Nations to which all UN member states were invited as well as members of the press and Canadians working at the UN.
As part of its election platform the Liberals committed to “restoring Canada’s leadership in the world.” In the platform it was suggested that this means Canada focusing on what are called “peace missions” with the United Nations or other multilateral organizations (i.e., NATO). This is necessary because the Harper Conservatives “turned their backs on the UN and other multilateral institutions, while also weakening Canada’s military, our diplomatic service, and our development programs,” the Liberals said.
Trudeau’s official remarks announcing the bid were not made public, but reports indicate that he focused on “respect for human rights and dedication to diversity and inclusion” which he asserted are central to how Canada defines itself. “These core values not only lead to greater equality among citizens, but also play a pivotal role in ensuring peace and security within and between nations,” he said. He also spoke on Canada’s role in UN peacekeeping operations as the expression of Canada’s commitment to human rights. “We are determined to revitalize Canada’s historic role as a key contributor to United Nations peacekeeping, in addition to helping advance current reform efforts,” he said. The reform efforts refer to initiatives from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and taken up by U.S. President Barack Obama to reform UN peacekeeping operations into what are called peace operations as a way to secure UN approval for military intervention in violation of the UN Charter.
Trudeau has likewise adopted the language of “peace operations,” stating, “[…] Canada will increase its engagement with peace operations, not just by making available our military, police, and specialized expertise, but also by supporting the civilian institutions that prevent conflict, bring stability to fragile states, and help societies recover in the aftermath of crisis.”
Following Trudeau’s remarks, Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion stated, “In this world rocked by instability, conflicts and mistrust, Canada has a mission to prove the universality of the Prime Minister’s conviction: we are strong, not in spite of our diversity, but because of it.”
He claimed that people are asking for Canada to be more engaged: “[T]hat is what the Prime Minister, myself and other Canadian ministers have been hearing wherever we go, whether at the G20, COP 21, NATO, the Commonwealth Summit, the High Level Forum on Somalia, the UN Human Rights Council or the Global Coalition Against ISIL.” Engaged to do what and with what aim Dion did not elaborate.
Dion invoked select aspects of Canadian history to present a rosy picture of Canada’s role in international affairs as evidence that Canada should have a seat at the UN Security Council. “From Lester B. Pearson’s leadership in resolving the Suez Crisis, to Brian Mulroney’s determination in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, to Jean Chrétien’s decisive action for a ban on antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions and the creation of the International Criminal Court, Canada has played a critical role. Today, we need to put our collective shoulder to the wheel once again.”
Dion’s pitch was as self-righteous as one could get, claiming that in Canada everything is great and Canada has a moral duty to bring its experience to the world. “We’ll do what is needed to support the international community, based on our experience in building a peaceful and resilient society in Canada; in bravely fighting for justice and security on the global stage; in promoting humanitarian assistance, development, training and capacity building; and in protecting gender equality and all human rights. We seek a seat at the Security Council precisely because the world finds itself at a time when there is a pressing need to prevent violent extremism, to manage conflict and to respond to humanitarian crises. We know Canada can make a difference,” he said.
1.According to the Charter of the United Nations, the primary responsibility of the Security Council is for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 members, five permanent and ten temporary. Each member has one vote, however the permanent members, the U.S., UK, People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation and France can veto decisions of the Council. Under the Charter of the United Nations, all member states are obligated to comply with Council decisions. The Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or authorize the use of force to “maintain or restore international peace and security.”
The Security Council also recommends to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and the admission of new members to the United Nations. Together with the General Assembly, it elects the judges of the International Court of Justice.
The United Nations Security Council elections for non-permanent members take place in June during the United Nations General Assembly, held at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The elections are staggered, each for five of the ten non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council for two-year mandates. The regional groupings of UN member states are Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Caribbean, Western Europe and Other, Eastern Europe. Canada is considered part of the Western Europe and Other group which has two seats. Canada has held a seat on the UN Security Council six times. Its last term was in 1999-2000.
Source: TML Weekly, March 19, 2016, No. 12
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