Canada doesn’t deserve a UN Security Council seat


in Canada, Geek stuff, Law, Politics, Rants, Science, Security, The environment

At the moment, Canada is competing for one of the ten non-permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council – the principal international body charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Canada thinks of itself as an internationalist country that has committed itself to peacekeeping and other forms of international assistance. Unfortunately, Canada is also doing virtually everything in its power to worsen the most pressing medium-term threat to international security, namely climate change.

At the moment, the United Nations process designed to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol is going nowhere. While that situation has many causes, one of the most important has been the unwillingness of developed states to make real commitments and take meaningful domestic action. For its part, Canada has adopted targets that would be better than nothing, but which are neither fair now adequate. In order for the world to avoid dangerous climate change, other countries would need to pick up the slack created by Canada’s lack of ambition. Even worse, Canada has no credible plan to meet those targets, and has taken no serious domestic action on climate change.

Right now, Canada is flirting with some of the most dangerous energy options out there. These include unconventional oil and gas, including the oil sands and shale gas, as well as fossil fuel reserves in formerly inaccessible places like the Arctic. Chasing those fossil fuels is foolishness. It commits us to perpetuating an energy system that profoundly threatens future generations, and redirects resources from the task of building a sustainable basis for our society.

As long as Canada continues to behave with such reckless disregard for those outside its borders, including those who are not yet born, it doesn’t deserve the prestige associated with a Security Council seat. To be sure, some of Canada’s international actions have been and are praiseworthy, but that doesn’t counterbalance the way in which Canada is helping to commit the world to a colossal blunder. Ultimately, it may require Canada becoming an international pariah before our government will stand up to the oil and gas sector. Hopefully, it won’t come to that. If Canada loses its bid for this seat on the basis of domestic and international disapproval of our environmental record, perhaps it will be a much-needed signal that our recent conduct has been unacceptable.

[Update: 12 October 2010] Canada’s bid was unsuccessful. Hopefully, the embarassment will encourage Canada to play a more constructive role in future climate change negotiations.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

. October 8, 2010 at 9:21 am
Tristan October 8, 2010 at 10:21 am

“To be sure, some of Canada’s international actions have been and are praiseworthy”

Such as?

R.K. October 8, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Do all the countries competing for the seat have a better record than Canada on climate change?

oleh October 9, 2010 at 2:22 am

I checked the internet to see where Canada may fit relative to others.

Ten minutes on the internet disclosed the following:

1. The current non – permanent members are Austria, Bosnia Herzogovina, Brazil *, Gabon, Japan, Lebanon *, Mexico * , Nigeria, Turkey * and Uganda*. Those with stars behind them are on the Guardians;s list of top 100 most ahhorrent violators of human rights. Canada is not.

2. Canada ranks higher than any of these countries in Crabtree’s List : as #7 overall, Human Development #6, Gender Equality # 14, Asylym Seekers Acceptance Rates #2 and Aid # 14. It is not in the top list for the Environment.

3. Canada is seventh on the list of UN donations, (greater than China) and participated in more UN peacekeeping missions, more than any of the present members.

It seems Canada is doing quite well. If membership is based on “merit” or “deserving, despite not being near the top on the environment, Canada would seem to qualify, at least more than the present members.

. October 11, 2010 at 11:52 pm

Canada’s Security Council bid goes down to the wire

Canada is about to discover whether its drive to join the most powerful council at the United Nations ends in triumph or humiliation.

At about 10 a.m. Tuesday, representatives from the world’s 192 nations will gather in New York for an old-fashioned popularity contest. The prize: a two-year seat on the Security Council, an exclusive club that has the right to impose its will on other UN members.

. October 11, 2010 at 11:52 pm

“First Canada must prevail at the ballot box. It is waging a three-way contest versus Germany and Portugal for the two seats allotted to its regional group. Since Germany is considered a shoo-in, the real tussle is between Canada and Portugal.

Canada benefits from strong support in many quarters, including fellow Commonwealth countries and French-speaking nations. Its recent push to improve the health of mothers and children in poor countries is another plank in its campaign.

Experts note that Portugal’s bid is more robust than it might appear. In a body where there is often a backlash against bigger, more powerful nations, it helps to be an underdog. And Portugal can count on solid backing from Latin America and beyond.”

. October 12, 2010 at 10:09 am

Canada not shoo-in for UN seat

By ALTHIA RAJ, Parliamentary Bureau

Last Updated: October 12, 2010 12:27am

OTTAWA – The world will decide whether Canada deserves a seat on the prestigious United Nations Security Council on Tuesday.

Long a beacon of human rights, tolerance and diversity, Canada is no longer considered a shoo-in for one of two rotating seats up for grabs on the UN’s top body.

Tuesday morning, 192 UN member states will vote in a secret ballot to select either Germany, Portugal or Canada for two positions reserved for Western countries for the 2011-12 council sessions.

“Countries vote almost exclusively in their self interest,” noted Canada’s former UN ambassador Robert Fowler, who campaigned extensively between 1995 and 1998 when Canada last ran for a seat.

Onlookers say Canada’s pro-Israel stance, which began under prime minister Paul Martin but deepened under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has irked many Middle East countries and European allies.

A lack of action of climate change has also further alienated the Europeans, as well as many island nations concerned they will soon find themselves under water.

The Harper government’s early decision to refocus aid away from Africa to Latin America wasn’t looked upon too favourably but another former Canadian UN ambassador Paul Heinbecker said aid budgets increases and the maternal health initiative have tempered criticisms.

. October 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

Germany wins Security Council seat, Canada and Portugal head to run-off vote

Germany received 128 votes, one more than the two-thirds required. Portugal received 122 and Canada 114.

. October 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm

It’s Stephen Harper’s loss

Robert Silver
Globe and Mail Update
Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 3:22PM EDT

If any Canadian woke up this morning still under the mistaken impression that Stephen Harper is some kind of political strategic genius, surely to God the result of the UN Security Council vote has put that once trendy canard to rest once and for all.

In politics, there are some issues that are thrust upon governments and that are largely unavoidable. Other issues are entirely of the government’s making. Stephen Harper decided that getting elected to the UN Nations Security Council was this country’s highest foreign policy priority – nobody forced that decision on him.

So to all the Conservatives now claiming “who cares about the UN,” “they are a corrupt organization,” and “I’m glad we lost” – I disagree, but are they any more corrupt this afternoon than this morning? In other words, why the heck did Stephen Harper make getting elected to this organization his number one foreign policy priority if the UN is some rogue organization that Tories (now) want nothing to do with?

To those Conservatives who are now claiming “we lost because our foreign policy is based on principle and our principles aren’t popular with the UN membership,” I say other than unwavering support for Israel and indifference towards Africa, can you articulate those unpopular but principled positions? Moreover, did these “principled” positions suddenly become unpopular in the last 24 hours in a quickly shifting public opinion environment? Surely Harper had some clue before the vote that Canada’s foreign policy couldn’t carry two thirds of countries?

. October 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

“Ah, the Conservatives move on, but it was really all Michael Ignatieff’s fault. Opposition leaders should never, ever criticize the government on the world stage and because of Ignatieff’s elitist global network of cosmopolitans, his tepid critique of Canada’s UN bid swung dozens and dozens of votes. Yes, Ignatieff is far more powerful on the global stage than the Prime Minister of Canada. Sure he is.

Opposition leaders should just keep their mouth shut. Yup. Except of course when a young opposition leaders named Stephen Harper openly mocked and criticized Jean Chrétien for not sending troops to Iraq in a letter to The Wall Street Journal. You remember that letter, when Harper stated that “for the first time in history, the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need” and that “Canadians will be overwhelmingly with us.”

But other than Harper, no other Canadian leader should ever criticize Canada. “

. October 13, 2010 at 11:03 am

“So what did the government do or not do to lose this crucial vote? According to close observers, many things. The Conservative government’s increasingly unflinching support for Israel – even as members prepared to vote, International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan announced new trade talks from Tel Aviv – cost it support in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world.

The government’s perceived indifference to Southeast Asia cost votes in that region, while cutting back on the number of African nations receiving aid undermined support on that continent. Canada’s foot-dragging in creating a carbon market played heavily against it among numerous small island nations that perceive melting icecaps and rising sea levels as a mortal threat.

Byron Smith October 13, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Right now, Canada is flirting with some of the most dangerous energy options out there.
Seems like Canada is beyond first base on that score…

Ric October 14, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Canada should NOT have to justify it’s position on ANY issue to get a seat on the security council. We may not be perfect but show me ANY country that offers what we do in terms of helping the world.

I guess now all the third word Dung Hole nations that voted against us will have to go to Portugal as a place to illegally immigrate to. Of course that country will have to perk up it’s welfare and free health care system to compete with Canada.

In fact as one of the countries that was originally in involved in establishing the UN we should have insisted from the beginning that we have a permanent seat.

I will NOT accept we have any faults to answer for and anyone who thinks we do can either return to their original home or don’t bother to come here in the first place because we do not need or want you.

Byron Smith October 14, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Ric, your bigoted racist nationalism is showing. You might want to take a look at that.

Matt October 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I will NOT accept we have any faults to answer for and anyone who thinks we do can either return to their original home or don’t bother to come here in the first place because we do not need or want you.

What if they were born here?

And who is this “we” you speak of in “we do not need or want you?” It’s exceptionally arrogant of you to think you speak for all Canadians.

Milan October 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm

The decision to grant permanent status to some U.N. Security Council members (along with the veto) was a pragmatic one, intended to prevent the institutional and law-oriented approach of the United Nations from clashing too violently with Great Power geopolitics. The idea was that the U.N. could be most effective if it recognized that there were some states and situations that it should not try to enforce its control over.

The very existence of the Security Council is a recognition that some states are more important than others. The General Assembly isn’t an especially effective body, partly because tiny, powerless states have the same representation as rich and important ones.

People can (and do) argue about whether that was the right choice, morally and pragmatically, but there was never any compelling reason to give states like Canada permanent Security Council seats. They simply aren’t important enough to the overall functioning of the international community.

Milan October 14, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Like many institutions (the G8 comes to mind), the Security Council is set up in a way that reflects how world politics used to be, more than how they are now. The fact that France and the U.K. each have their own seats, while India and Japan are not represented, demonstrates that.

The membership of the council may eventually be adjusted, but if so it will be to recognize how the collection of Great Powers now differs from how it was in 1945. It won’t be altered to flatter marginally important states like Canada.

Standing with a sign that reads "LOL - J/K" October 14, 2010 at 2:15 pm

“I will NOT accept we have any faults to answer for and anyone who thinks we do can either return to their original home or don’t bother to come here in the first place because we do not need or want you.”

Matt October 14, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Good article from the Calgary Herald on why Canada got so few votes:

I personally hope that Canadians start to realize Harper and his government’s massive failings.

Ric October 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm

So I have “bigoted racist nationalism” Ehhhh?? If you have traveled to as many places on earth as I have you would know that there are only two kinds of nations. The Bigoted Racist Nationalists” and the Dung holes that treat their people so badly that they all want to come to Canada. If you want an example of B.R.N. check out Japan and how they treat their aboriginals and how they forbid anyone to get citizenship in their country because they want to protect their gene pool. The Dung holes are obvious, take any country in Africa. I find it interesting that I have had two immigrant wives, one European and one Asian who agree with me 100%. Like too many of the Canadian silent majority they too are just fed up with those who continually take Canada apart without offering any intelligent solution as to what we should do to fix THEIR perceived problem. Maybe it is time to become arrogant racist morons like the majority of US citizens and tell the rest of the world we don’t care. Ever notice no one argues with them??

Byron Smith October 14, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Maybe it is time to become arrogant racist morons
I’m afraid it seems you’ve already taken that step. It’s not pretty.

James October 14, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I despise the UN, the IMF, World Bank and all organisations who are trying to bring in Global Governance. If people just opened their eyes and saw why the world elite embrace these orgs, they would hate them too.

People think that Carbon taxes are suppose to help the earth, but it has nothing to do with the environment. The oligarchy in business and finance want you to embrace it so they can consolidate their power and control over every human on earth. It is funny, the same left wing groups who support taxing carbon usually dislike corporatism and fascism, yet that is exactly what those who control the agenda are herding you into.

oleh October 15, 2010 at 2:03 am

Thank you Milan, Matt and others on providing articles regarding what has been written about this subject in the media.

I read the artile provided by Matt from the Calgary Herald. The writer seemed to indicate that basically many countries would cast their vote based on some bloc allegiance with either Canada or Portugal or based on a stance on one issue.

I expect that is true. However, I found it also diappointing that counties would cast their vote on a single issue or because of a position on one issue. I was hoping for that votes would be cast based on which country overall was more worthy.

. October 25, 2010 at 12:09 pm

IN 2003 Bono, a rock star and poverty campaigner, proclaimed that “The world needs more Canada”. This week, the world decided it didn’t. On October 12th Canada lost its bid for a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council, for the first time since the organisation was founded in 1945. That Germany was preferred was acceptable; not so, being passed over in favour of Portugal.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government blamed the opposition leader, Michael Ignatieff, for the snub, because he had suggested that Canada did not deserve the seat. But many countries apparently share Mr Ignatieff’s dislike of Mr Harper’s foreign policy. This has featured outspoken support of Israel’s hardline government, alienating the Muslim countries that make up a third of the UN’s membership. Mr Harper has also made few friends in Africa (where he has closed embassies), or in Europe and among island states (with his feeble policy on climate change).

. October 28, 2010 at 11:21 am

Meantime, Canada’s international reputation on climate change is well known to be abysmal. That reputation cost Canada among Pacific island states and other countries with shorelines at risk of disappearance, to say nothing of hurting in parts of Europe where governments take climate change seriously.

Southeast Asian countries – Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the like – assumed Canada had lost track of them on the map. China and Turkey had been provoked by the Harper government – in China’s case by three years of indifference, in Turkey’s by Canada’s wading in on Armenia’s side in the emotional minefield of the Armenian “genocide” during the First World War.

In Africa, Canada suffered a major erosion of support. The Germans and Portuguese worked hard on the continent. Canada’s African aid had gone up, but it’s now set to decline as part of the deficit-reduction campaign. Concentrating aid in fewer countries might make policy sense, but it alienated those countries from which it was being withdrawn. More broadly, there was a sense that the Harper government just isn’t interested in Africa, and that sense hurt Canada badly.

And despite Canada’s apparent focus on Latin America, Ottawa didn’t sweep the continent as it had hoped, in part because Brazil worked hard for Portugal, and the Portuguese played up their “Iberian” connections. Portugal also argued that, as a small country, the Security Council didn’t need two more G8/G20 countries.

. December 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm

“TO DO the right deed for the wrong reason, T.S. Eliot wrote, is “the greatest treason”—a familiar one in the world of politics. This week’s culprit is Barack Obama, who has pledged American support for reforming the Security Council of the United Nations (UN), and giving India a permanent seat on it.

By backing India, the president proved that America rates it as a world power and helped set it against China, which quietly opposes permanent Indian membership. And, since UN reform has long been blocked by regional rivalries and powerful countries with something to lose, America can be pretty sure that nothing will come of it.

Mr Obama’s pledge was all the more forceful because his foreign-policy rhetoric has put store by rules and international consensus. Stoking India’s unfulfilled ambition will only fuel the sense that the UN’s most senior body fails to represent the world as it is. That will do the UN no good at all.

To lessen the chance that his India policy comes at the expense of his UN policy, Mr Obama needs to be as good as his word and to put America squarely behind a reform of the Security Council. Reform would be just, it is overdue, and it would make the UN work better. It might even be achievable.

Pretty much everyone agrees that the Security Council’s permanent, veto-wielding membership reflects a bygone age, when what mattered was who won the second world war. An increasingly unrepresentative, anachronistic Security Council speaks with diminishing authority. It is less able to debate the issues that matter, because important actors may be missing. And it is less able to hand down opinions that count, because they do not bear the seal of all the world’s great powers. Whether you think the UN can accomplish a little or a lot, a better Security Council would be able to get more done.”

. November 28, 2011 at 9:31 am

U.K. secretly supporting oilsands campaign: report

OTTAWA — A British media report says the U.K. government has been giving secret support at the very highest levels to Ottawa’s campaign against European penalties on its oilsands fuel, prompting environmentalists to call Britain Canada’s “partner in crime.”

The Guardian newspaper says energy giants Shell and BP, which both have major oilsands projects in Alberta, have been lobbying the government of Prime Minister David Cameron to back Canada’s fight against the European proposal.

According to documents released under freedom of information laws, at least 15 high-level meetings and frequent communications have taken place since September between Ottawa and London.

The European proposal is to designate transport fuel from tar sands as resulting in 22 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions than that from conventional fuels, officially labelling Alberta’s oilsands fuel as dirtier.

. April 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Trudeau says all the right things, over and over. He’s got no Scott Pruitts in his cabinet: everyone who works for him says the right things. Indeed, they specialize in getting others to say them too – it was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5C (2.7F).

But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing. He’s hard at work pushing for new pipelines through Canada and the US to carry yet more oil out of Alberta’s tar sands, which is one of the greatest climate disasters on the planet.

. September 20, 2017 at 6:13 pm
. November 1, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Paris agreement targets leave ‘alarming gap’ to slow climate change: UN report
Canada has no immediate plans to raise emission cutting targets, despite UN pressure

Canada has no immediate plans to raise its targets for cutting emissions, despite pressure from the United Nations to step it up or risk the failure of the Paris climate change agreement.

In the 2015 Paris accord, 196 countries, including Canada, agreed to set national targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions en route to preventing the planet from warming up more than two degrees Celsius on average compared with pre-industrial levels.

UN Environment Tuesday released its eighth annual emissions gap report, which says Paris signatories have thus far only committed to one-third of the cuts to emissions that will be required to achieve the goal.

Canada is one of the biggest laggards, with the UN saying that not only are Canada’s existing targets too low, it does not yet have the policies in place to even meet them. The report calls on Canada and many other developed nations, including the United States, Mexico and the European Union, to step up their planned cuts or there is zero chance of meeting the two degree goal.

All countries that signed Paris are expected to produce updated targets by 2020 and the UN report says the technology is there for the world to hit the necessary cuts, it just needs the will to do it.

. August 23, 2018 at 2:17 pm

It turns out that unshackling the Global Affairs bureaucracy doesn’t give Canada all that much pull. At least not when it isn’t given anything more than a slogan as guidance. It’s been so poor, only a fool would now bet on Canada receiving the temporary U.N. Security Council seat for which it has been campaigning. Perhaps that’s why the government has stopped yapping about it.

Mica Prazak October 5, 2018 at 4:45 am

“The fact that France and the U.K. each have their own seats, while India and Japan are not represented, demonstrates that.”


Are you saying that India, despite its massive population superiority, and likely a larger international environmental impact given the obvious pollutants it produces, deverses a spot on pure population size?

The two largest nations in the world, care very little for intertational standards necessary for improving the global climate change epidemic.

Which countries in your opinion deserve to have a seat?

Milan October 5, 2018 at 9:32 am

I wouldn’t use the term “population superiority”. I think we will all be thinking more about “population vulnerability” as the impacts of climate change worsen.

I would nominate countries which are making a sincere effort to get off fossil fuels, not taking part in arms races, etc. I don’t think Canada’s self-congratulatory attitude toward the UN is at all justified by our historical record, particularly on the good-faith implementation of the UNFCCC and UNDRIP.

. October 8, 2018 at 4:49 pm
. May 30, 2019 at 3:01 pm

Canada’s got some of the very best climate activists, experts and policy people in the world. And it has a government that’s rhetorically, and in certain respects actually, committed to being a leader on climate change and carbon taxes. But Justin Trudeau said in Houston a couple of years ago, “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil [in the ground] and just leave them there.” And so, Canada is committed to using up about a third of the remaining carbon budget [we can emit before what] the scientists say is a catastrophe. If Canada’s determined to dig up the oil underneath the oil sands and ship it around the world to people who will burn it, then Canada is inevitably going to be a great source of destruction. We can’t afford to have Canada do that, any more than we can afford to have the U.S. dig up all the coal in the Powder River Basin or have Brazil cut down all the trees in the rainforest.

. August 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm

I can forgive most people for glazing over at the mention of climate targets. They’re the stuff of wonky technocrats, hardly inspiring transformative change. For almost 30 years, Canadian governments have promised to reduce carbon pollution, mostly from the burning of coal, oil and gas. And they’ve done a miserable job at it.

I was born in 1991. For my entire life, governments have been setting climate targets and failing to meet them. At the first United Nations climate change conference, the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, Canada promised emissions cuts to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Instead, we increased pollution by 19 per cent. Under the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, we said we would drop emissions to six per cent below our previous target by 2012. Then we grew our total by another 3.5 per cent.

In Copenhagen in 2009, Canada set a new target to reduce carbon emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. As of 2017, we’ve reduced them just two per cent. Finally, in the Paris Agreement in 2015, we proudly announced we would cut pollution by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. We’re currently on track to miss that target, with just a 12.5-per-cent decrease.

. December 15, 2019 at 6:27 pm

UN climate negotiations end in ‘demoralizing, enraging’ failure
By Chris Hatch in Analysis | December 15th 2019

A coalition of countries seeking higher ambition were blocked by a group of big polluters insisting on accounting tricks such as “hot air” credits, opposing help for nations suffering the impacts of climate change, and demanding that human rights protections get removed from the main sections of the agreement that COP25 was intended to resolve. One of the main breakdowns centred on Article 6 which covers international accounting for climate pollution and credits between countries. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers along with politicians like Jason Kenney and Andrew Scheer, had been making misleading suggestions that Article 6 could be used to give Canada credit for exports of LNG and other fossil fuels.

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