… with Norman Spector, he is a man of HUGE accomplishments, an author, diplomat and very senior public servant, who always takes a reasoned approach to situations. But this time, I must. Mr Spector said …
… and I think he’s wrong.
I think Canadians should be quietly applauding today because Canada “dodged a bullet,” as they say. The United Nations Security Council is part of the global problem … not part of the solution.
The United Nations is HUGE organization. I, personally, have worked with several parts of it: in offices and meeting rooms in Geneva, in a dirty old Land Rover in the Middle East and, unfortunately, with people, including Canadians, in offices in New York. Many parts of the UN, like the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) predate it by about a century and they do exceptional work to make the whole world work better. UN peacekeepers are a mixed lot, but, especially at the command level, their hearts are usually in the right place. The problem is in New York.
The United Nation’s goal is admirable:
“To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war …” may be the noblest aim ever written. Canadians helped to write it … men like Lester Pearson, Escott Reid ⇐ and Hume Wrong ⇒ were senior civil servants who surrounded Louis St Laurent, Canada’s best ever, without question, foreign minister, and they were all at the planning conferences for the creation of the United Nations, pushing for a reasonable, functional organization, based, they hoped, on a “concert” system and the art of the possible as they worked to contain the great powers. they were heroes, much more important than General Andrew McNaughton or Justin Trudeau.
For a while, in the 1940s, ’50s and into the ’60s, it looked like they succeeded. But a deeper cold war between the US-led West (which included Japan) and the Russian-led Eastern Bloc, was intensified by the end of the colonial era. But, by the 1980s, it was pretty obvious that the cold war was winding down because global communism could not offer anyone a coherent way out of poverty and despair, even though Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau seemed to support Russia’s moves to crush the Polish Solidarity movement with military force. Pierre Trudeau decided that North~South mattered more than East~West and he shifted Canadian foreign and defence policies in a new direction: one which pushed away old friends and even new friends like India, and tried to make common cause with the bottom half of the third world.
Part of that meant ignoring rank corruption and ineptitude in the United Nations HQ in New York. Those of us “in the field” saw that on a routine basis when we tried to get practical things done. In one case a Canadian officer, “in the field,” had to open a “back-channel” to a friendly US Army supply depot commander ~ a chance acquaintanceship paid off ~ because monies that had been approved by the UN staff in New York to support the operations in the field was diverted through various agencies and countries until it had all disappeared. There were senior Canadian military officers and diplomats in New York but they didn’t want to hear the cried for help from the field because they were under orders, from Ottawa, to support the third world kleptocrats who were stealing the UN’s money. The United Nations Security Council authorized the mission, it approved the funds to support those missions, then it turned a blind eye as corrupt officials diverted the money away from its intended purposes and into the bank accounts of oligarchs.
The United Nations Security Council is part of the problem and I am glad that
Canada’s bid Trudeau’s vanity project has failed. As Robyn Urback writes, in the Globe and Mail, “while the defeat at the UN might not be a major loss for Canada, it is a tremendous loss for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally, who attached himself so emphatically to the idea of his government returning Canada to its “honest broker” role on the world stage. Reclaiming a seat on the UNSC was a cornerstone of his government’s foreign-policy outlook, which has long been hazy on policy specifics but enthusiastic about Canada somehow fulfilling a peacekeeping vacancy on the world stage … [and] … Canada’s failure to secure a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is an extremely necessary check to this country’s often outsized ego … [because, Justin Trudeau’s Canada] … did not deserve to win the seat. We spend considerably less on foreign aid as a percentage of our GDP than Norway, which earned the most votes at the UN on Wednesday. Our recent peacekeeping record – that is, that one Mali mission that ended earlier than was requested – is far less robust and consistent than that of Ireland … [and] … Our current foreign-policy outlook is basically a potpourri of contradictions – it smells good, serves no meaningful purpose and crumbles under even the slightest pressure. Indeed, the “new Canada” – the one that came “back” in 2015 after the Conservative government was shown the door – preaches about human rights but sells arms to Saudi Arabia. We wax about promoting our democratic values abroad but seize up when Beijing moves to quash democracy in Hong Kong. We are vocal in standing up for LGBTQ rights, except when we want to win the security council support of Senegal, where same-sex discrimination is enshrined and enforced in law.” Bingo!
The best place for Canadain diplomats and officials and international civil servants to be is outside, looking in with a very critical eye. Canada has been scolded for its self-righteousness, for being “the stern daughter of the voice of god” but, now and again, that’s not a bad attitude. It’s how Canada should look a the United Nations, especially at the Security Council, in the 2020s. Our policy ought to be to demand reform. The best place, the only proper place to do that is from the floor of the General Assembly. Having a worthless, temporary, second class seat on the Security Council would hinder a new, more responsible government that, we must all hope, will take foreign policy more seriously than do Justin Trudeau, Chrystia Freeland and François-Philippe Champagne.
I’m not gloating, not celebrating, I am happy that Ireland and Norway, not Canada, have those worthless seats.