Showing posts with label Trump. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trump. Show all posts

Thursday 25 June 2020

How Did Canada Lose to Norway and Ireland in Its Campaign for a UN Security Council Seat?

The Basics:  

  • The United Nations was formed in 1945, at the end of World War II.  There were 51 member countries.  Harry S. Truman was President of the USA and the UN's home was established in New York City.
  • The goal of the United Nations is world peace and security.
  • The Security Council is the power center of the UN.  It has five permanent members, the "big" winners of WWII:  the USA, France, the UK, Russia, and China.
  • On a rotational basis, other countries are elected by all 193 members of the UN General Assembly to occupy temporary, 2-year positions in the Security Council.
  • There are currently 10 temporary (non-permanent, 2-year) positions in the Security Council. The permanent members have remained the same since 1945.
  • The non-permanent positions are elected on a geographical basis, so Canada was competing against Ireland and Norway in what is known as the "Weog block" (Western Europe and Others).
  • In the 2020, three-country competition for two Security Council seats, Canada came in third behind Norway and Ireland.

Why did Canada lose?  The Said and the unsaid.

Here is a list of reasons I have surmised ("the unsaid") and I have read ("the said" which someone else has surmised):
  1.  Canada is a strong supporter of Israel.  According to Wikipedia, citing a CBC commentary by Evan Dyer, Canada's "consistent voting record in support of Israel" was an obstacle to its election.
  2. Over time, Canada has had a Security Council Seat for twelve years.  In other words, Canada has won this election process six times.  It was someone else's turn.
  3. Norway spent 2.8 million dollars campaigning for a seat; Canada only spent 1.74 million.  (Who knew there were campaigns for the seats?  Didn't we just put SNC-Lavalin on trial for paying bribes to foreign officials?)
  4. As part of the campaigning, Canada gave out free tickets to a Celine Dion concert.  Ireland gave out free U2 concert tickets.  (Turns out Bono is more popular in the UN than Celine.)
  5. Gender equity.  (This so ironic, it's almost funny.)  In Canada, we might think of our Prime Minister as the Poster Boy for gender equity.  The Security Council, as it turns out, is also very interested in gender equity.  The Norwegian Ambassador to the UN and the Irish Ambassador to the UN are both women.  Their election added two more women to the Security Council.   Canada's Ambassador to the UN and our candidate for the Security Council was Mark-André Blanchard.
  6. It's a fair guess that China did not vote for Canada.  Nor would any country under Chinese influence and, if the rumours are even half true, that would be a lot of votes.  After the vote, Norway's Prime Minister expressed the intention "to remain on good terms with China, Russia, and the United States."  Something Canada seems to have trouble doing.
  7. No-one I have read is saying so but I think it is a fair bet that the Trump White House would be unlikely to endorse a Canadian presence on the Security Council.  Trump's animosity toward Trudeau is well documented.  I can recall at least two incidents in which Trump described Trudeau as "two-faced" or words to that effect--The G7 and Davos.
  8. Why vote for the American lapdog?  Despite the exchange of insults between the President and the Prime Minister, Canada is perceived as being incapable of opposing or unwilling to oppose US hegemony.   The campaign for a Security Council seat has been going on at the same time as Canada has been holding Meng, the Huawei CFO, under house arrest to honour a US extradition request.  The arrest has been counter to Canadian interests while it serves American corporate and trade interests.  Historically, Canada has been elected to the Security Council once every 10 years under both Conservative and Liberal governments.  It has now been 20 years since Canada last held a seat.  Canada's willingness to sacrifice its own interests in order to accommodate an American "request" leads to the conclusion that electing Canada would simply be giving the USA another voice at Security Council meetings.

Does it matter?

According to Andrew Scheer, who seems to be in permanent bitch mode these days, the campaign was Justin Trudeau's "personal vanity project."  However, when the Harper/Scheer Conservatives failed to win a Security Council seat in 2010 "foreign affairs minister John Baird attributed the failure to win a seat to principled positions taken by Canada on certain international issues."  

I have gone looking for answers to the question "What are the benefits of a temporary seat on the Security Council?" and the answers have been neither tangible nor convincing.  "Having a seat at the table" is an interesting synecdoche but what does it really mean?  It's prestigious?  How does that prestige play out to be of any real benefit to Canada?

According to the rules of the Security Council, any one of the five permanent members can veto any proposal presented.  Hypothetically, if Canada were a member and presented an idea, all five of China, Russia, France, the UK, and the USA would have to agree before there could be any further discussion.  If all five permanent members wanted an idea to be discussed, they certainly wouldn't need Canada to propose it.  Or is the Security Council really about backroom deals, corridor conversations, and whisper campaigns?  If so, do they really need to be Security Council members in order for Ambassador A to lean over to Ambassador B and say, "Hey, why don't you let our citizens out of jail, and maybe we can sign a trade deal!"

Is the UN a dysfunctional bureaucracy?

The theoretical goals of the UN--"world peace and security"--could not be more desirable.  In practice, it appears to have fallen prey to the syndrome which plagues so many institutions, (governments, political parties, universities, security and police forces, even non-profit organizations and charities): a preoccupation with its own bureaucratic survival over the underlying raison d'être for which it exists.

Seventy-five years after it was first formed, Professor of International Relations, Jean-François Thibault, asks, "is the Security Council still relevant in its current form?"  Thibault is "not optimistic." We can only hope that the organization reinvigorates the goals to which it aspires before it expires.


An astute reader of this blog asked me if there has ever been a case of the non-permanent members of the Security Council affecting the outcome of voting on a particular resolution.  I have browsed 500 (of the 2500 available) examples of Security Council votes.  In these 500 cases, there was not a single example of one of the 15 members of the Security Council voting against a resolution.  In a handful of cases, there were two or three abstentions.

Sunday 11 December 2016

When It Comes to Democracy, Who Are Canadians to Talk?

Trump, Trudeau and the popular vote  

When some of my Canadian Facebook friends seemed outraged that Donald Trump won the American presidency without winning the popular vote, I felt compelled to point out that the Trudeau Liberals only won 39.5% of the popular vote (Oct. 19, 2015) which translated into 54% of the parliamentary seats—which in Canada means 100% of the power.  

Trump tweets that he won a "rigged" election

Of course, being elected to the single most powerful position on the planet isn’t quite enough to satisfy Trump’s mega-ego, so his team has been pursuing claims that he did, in fact, win the popular vote, pursuant to Trump’s typical strategy of simply Tweeting that he, in fact, won the popular vote and that the voting was rigged.  Yes, he claims that the election which he won was rigged.  We live in dark comedic times.    

"There is a crack in everything"

As a Canadian, it’s difficult not to notice that Leonard Cohen died the day before Trump was elected.  In the past we could depend upon Cohen, with a single line or maybe two, to give the chaos some hint of meaning, raising us above it all.  On second thought, Leonard did leave us with the proper lines for this occasion:  “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”

Is Trump the stereotypical American?

Unfair as it is to individual Americans—dare I say, to the majority of individual Americans—the gaping cracks now showing in the USA will force Americans to see themselves as they have seen themselves but dimly in the past.  Donald Trump is a perfect representation of that stereotypical view of Americans as loud, brash, rude, egotistical, self-aggrandizing, arrogant, bullying, and under-educated but rich—and proud of it all.  Americans may now be forced to see themselves in the unflattering light in which much of the world has seen them.

Will he or won't he, and which is worse?

If you have been critical of American incongruity and hypocrisy in the past, get ready.  In the next four years, you will be able to compare hypocrisy with outright villainy . . . or maybe not.  What’s been happening lately is like that Woody Allen joke:  you know the one.  Two old ladies are eating in a restaurant, one turns to the other and says, “The food in this restaurant is just terrible.”  To which the second responded, “Yes, and they give such small portions, too!”

On the political scene, lefties and liberals like me used to complain “Gawd!  Aren’t the things that Trump is promising terrible!”  And now, “Isn’t it awful that Trump isn’t going to do the things he promised!”  Oddly enough, the latter is what Trump supporters had been saying since the beginning.

Canadian smuggery

We Canadians should not be smug.  Our diffidence better becomes us.  We are in the midst of our own dark comedy.  Hopefully, it is too early to say “I told you so,” but I did predict in an October post (Are Canadian Elections Democratic?) that the Liberal promise of electoral reform was unlikely to survive the combination of voter apathy and party interests.  According to various press reports, the opposition parties have been pushing to fulfill the Liberals’ election promises, while the Liberal party itself is struggling to delay implementation of its own promises.

Is Print more reliable than digital?

In a reversal of modern trends, election reform has been getting more play in the press than online or in social media.  In August of this year, Andrew Coyne published an excellent article countering dire predictions that “proportional representation” in Canada would lead to disaster:  "No, proportional representation would not make Canada a dystopian hellhole."

Proportional representation

As Coyne documents, all over the world where democratic countries have used proportional representation (that is, the party’s proportion of the popular vote determines how many seats the party gets in parliament), the end results have worked quite well.  However, as Coyne points out, the two examples which critics of proportional representation invariably cite, Italy and Israel, are not only anomalies, but the status-quo proponents exaggerate the difficulties these countries face and fail to acknowledge the very specific conditions in these two countries which do not apply to Canada.

The Conspiracy of online silence

At the risk of invoking a conspiracy theory, I have to point out that it was/is difficult to find this Coyne article online.  Not only was it necessary to use the exact wording of the headline but of the eight hits that came up seven of them were dead links leading a “404” message:  “file or directory not found.”  As I was about to share the one working link with you, dear Reader, I went to my bookmark to discover that the article has disappeared from there as well.  Consequently, if you want to read the article, you will have to visit your local library and check out the “National News” in your local paper for August 19, 2016. Paradoxically, what are accessible online are a few Coyne articles where he seems to be counter-punching against the election-reform process, if not electoral reform itself.

Is MyDemocracy deliberately just plain silly?

In an effort to create a bit of online buzz the government has launched which supposedly surveys Canadian attitudes toward electoral reform.  The government survey is a lot like those self-evaluation quizzes popular in days of yore in magazines like Cosmopolitan, Ms and People, designed to answer questions like:  “Are you a good lover?”  “Are you a romantic or a realist?” and “How confident are you?”  (Fine, okay, you caught me.  I’ve done them all, and I’m a confident, romantic mediocre lover.)

Choosing between a fair democracy and getting things done

I found it hard to imagine how the government survey will in any way advance the cause of electoral reform.  Nor did the questionnaire quite live up to its promise of “being fun”; nonetheless, I would encourage you to try it out yourself.  What I found disconcerting about the survey was that I was being asked to decide if I wanted a parliament with many parties or one that got things done.  I don’t believe electoral reform forces me to choose one or the other; we can have both.  I think a fairer and more reasonable question—not to mention one directly to the point— would be: “Do you think it is fair that the Green Party got 3.5% of the votes in the last federal elections but less than 1% of the seats  (.29% to be exact, meaning one seat)?”

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter" (Churchhill).

The one issue that the survey raised for me, about which I remain torn, fell under the general theme of “making it easier to vote.”  In past American elections, it was always the Democrats who accused Republicans of making it hard to vote. However, in the last election, we heard Trumplicans accusing the Democrats of voter suppression.  Part of me wants everyone to vote, or at least that there be strong voter turnout, but another part of me wants people to vote who are informed and aware of the issues.  Also, I am doubtlessly out of step with the times in being leery of online voting, but a part of me (okay, I’m running out of parts) thinks that maybe it’s a good idea that voting takes a bit of effort.  Certainly, voting about voting (i.e., a referendum on electoral reform) is an issue we should all be willing to give time and effort to—if we care at all about democracy.

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