Two "western" seats on the Security Council of the United-Nations are coming-up for grabs in a rotation of some of the ten "non-permanent" seats on the UN's most powerful institution.
Canada's profile at the United Nations has been somewhat subdued in the three and a half years since the Conservative government was elected. Prime Minister Harper's close ally, U-S President George W. Bush, was somewhat lukewarm to the world body, to say the least, and Canada's foreign policy initiatives marched mostly in lock-step with the American view.
Though our representative to the United Nations is a competent career diplomat, Ambassador John McNee, who replaced Allan Rock when the Tories were elected in 2006, is hardly a household name. Previous Canadian representatives have included, Lester Pearson, Lloyd Axeworthy, Barbara McDougall and Robert Fowler. In fact the Prime Minister himself has only attended once at the United Nations in New York since his election in January 2006.
The 192-member United-Nations General Assembly will elect a total of five new members to the 15 member Security Council. Very recent events, including renewed tensions between North and South Korea, highlight the important role played by the Security Council in all of the 64 year history of the world organization. Canada has held one of the non-permanent council seats in every decade since the formation of the United Nations in 1945. In the past it's always been considered a "big boy" amongst the Security Council candidates.
Over those decades every Canadian has shared in the pride of our traditional role as "Peacekeeper" to the world (Now abandoned to wage war in Afghanistan); Lester Pearson's "Nobel" Peace Prize for solving the Suez Crisis of 1956, and our sense of inclusion and fair play on the global stage.
Under the UN's regional voting system the two "western" Security Council seats will be filled from a short list of three declared Candidates - Germany, Portugal and Canada when the General Council votes in the fall of 2010. Since coming to office Prime Minister Harper has been publicly criticised by the Opposition for his half-hearted response to Canada's candidacy. Despite concerns within the bureaucracy, the lightweights who (in succession) headed Foreign Affairs in Harper's first government: Peter MacKay, Maxime Bernier and Liberal turned Tory, David Emmerson did not accomplish much of anything in advancing the file.
As I speculated on this "post" back in February (See: PAYBACK Feb. 22) - Canada's quick response in taking over the investigation and negotiations for the eventual release of Ambassadors Robert Fowler and Louis Guay kidnapped in Niger last December, may have provided an impetus for the Harper Government to avoid the international embarrassment of Canada being left off of the Security Council in 2010. Though Fowler and Guay are both Canadian, they were working directly for the Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon. By Christmas, the UN's lame efforts at securing their release was abundantly clear, and Ban Ki Moon was treading water well beyond his depth to deal with this crisis.
In gratitude; what's obvious now is that the men in suits at the highest levels of the United Nations are leaving few stones unturned...mountains moved...pulling-out all the stops to get pledges of support flowing for Canada's bid. Recent published reports say that secret written commitments are in-hand from half a dozen African countries, the continent where Fowler and Guay were abducted; as well as from several states in Central and South America, where Mr. Harper has recently opened several trade initiatives.
On Canadian soil, and in the hands of a more competent Foreign Affairs Minister, Lawrence Cannon, a whole section has been set-up at DFAIT (Dept. of Foreign Affairs & Inter'l Trade) to guide and direct our candidacy. Officials are being dispatched to the African Continent, South America and pretty much anywhere else an ounce of support may be obtainable.
Canwest News Services recently quoted an unidentified insider: "They realized they'd dropped the ball...the Security Council campaign is now so important it is mentioned at just about every policy and programming meeting affecting international matters."
A turnaround at the United-Nations is harder than stopping the Titanic "on a dime". But at last, there is a glimmer of hope and a sense of optimism amongst strategists at Foreign Affairs that they may be able to salvage a monumental diplomatic embarrassment which would have been of our own making. Amen!