Canada will know this week whether or not it can sit on the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member. Despite the pandemic, the Canadian government’s campaign continued behind the scenes to win one of the coveted seats. And the current crisis will have finally supported Canada’s case as an ideal contributor to the reform of multilateralism in the world, argue two campaign emissaries, Jean Charest and Joe Clark, in an interview with Duty.
“In fact, the pandemic adds a new argument to the importance of multilateral cooperation,” said former Prime Minister Clark over the phone. The question remains whether or not other countries will be sensitive to it. But it is very clear that we are facing a range of problems that no country can solve alone. “
Canada hopes to win one of two non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council this week reserved for the “Group of Western European and Other Countries”. But Ireland and Norway are also in the battle and are greatly appreciated by the international community.
However, although these two countries have a “solid reputation”, Mr. Clark notes that Canada has two advantages of its own: its reputation as an international negotiator and a privileged relationship with many countries thanks to its membership in the G7, the G20, as well as La Francophonie and the Commonwealth. “It’s not just being part of the same family. The fact is that we have acquired a reputation there for being reasonable and efficient within these families. And in an era like this, where there is so much uncertainty about our response to health crises and other challenges, I believe that reputation consolidates our position. “
“More than ever, we need cooperation with other countries, whether to repatriate Canadians from abroad, to help find a vaccine or to maintain supply chains,” added Mr. Clark. and Jean Charest in an open letter published on the site of Duty. We are deeply convinced that Canada can and must help meet the most difficult challenges of humanity in the area of peace and security. “
Mr. Charest also raised the questioning of international multilateralism by certain world superpowers. “In this context, we have experience that is relevant to the changes we are currently experiencing. If we have to redefine multilateralism, we are the right country to do it, “insisted the former Quebec premier.
To convince a majority of UN members to support the Canadian candidacy, Jean Charest and Joe Clark met with senior leaders in several countries and reminded them of Canadian efforts on the international scene, but also of recent initiatives.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau co-chaired a conference two weeks ago on the economic ravages of COVID-19 in developing countries. “We are the first and only ones to present the issue of economic security as a key element of development, but also of peace and conflict resolution,” said Mr. Charest.
Canada is also working to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO). “This is the kind of role we can play, in this context of great tension between China and the United States today,” he insists.
But Canada has also had to defend itself from not doing enough in peacekeeping. Because although Prime Minister Trudeau promised the Canadian peacekeepers would return, there were only 35 deployed worldwide in April (46 in February, before the pandemic hit). In contrast, Ireland has 474 peacekeepers currently on mission, and Norway 65.
Charest replied that “it is not only a question of the number of soldiers”, but also of innovative initiatives proposed in recent years. He recalls that Ottawa launched the “Vancouver Principles” to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers, and the “Elsie Initiative” to deploy more women in peacekeeping missions.
However, Canada’s environmental record was also criticized this week. Young environmentalist Greta Thunberg co-signed a letter calling on island countries to take advantage of the Security Council election to put pressure on Canada and Norway so that these oil and gas producing countries do more in the fight against climate changes.
“All countries have strengths and weaknesses,” says Clark. “When we were elected to the Security Council in the past, we had flaws as well as strengths. It will always be. Is it a factor in the race? Certainly. But we also have great forces which are particularly valuable at the moment, “insists the former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Less than a week before the vote, Mr. Clark and Mr. Charest say they are “confident” that Canada will win its bet. But they note at the same time that Canada’s two rivals are highly regarded and had started their campaigns long before Ottawa started racing.
We have experience that is relevant to the changes we are experiencing. If we have to redefine multilateralism, we are the right country to do it.
In 2010, the secret ballot at the UN ended in a surprise defeat for Canada, which had been overtaken by Germany and had to yield second place to Portugal. It was the first time that Canada had lost such a campaign since the creation of the UN in 1945.
If this scenario is repeated this week, what lesson should Canada learn from it? Neither Mr. Clark nor Mr. Charest dares to go too far.
“We will have to make a post mortem, consents Mr. Charest. But in my opinion, we will have already gained a lot in this exercise by refreshing our relations and renewing them with several countries, which will allow us – whatever the result – to get back in phase with our partners on a bilateral basis. “
The vote will take place on Wednesday in New York. It will last a few hours since the representatives of the member countries will take turns voting to comply with the physical distancing instructions. The results of the first round will be known in the afternoon, and if a second or even a third ballot is required for two of the candidates to win the support of more than two thirds of the 193 member countries, these votes will be held subsequent days.