Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finger pointing time at the UN corral

Today by all accounts should have been Canada's day, with the UN vote to add rotating non-permanent members to the 15 member Security Council roundtable destined to once again bring Canada's delegates into the inner circle.

But it seems that a funny thing happened on the way to the vote, Canada's support began to crumble, with Germany and Portugal taking the lions share of some vital first round voting. A situation combined with a poor showing in the second round, that  seemingly so shocked Canada's officials, that they chose to avoid potential embarrassment and withdrew from a subsequent run off vote that would have pitted Canada up against Portugal for the final available spot.

With Canada's reputation taking a bit of a kick today, the political ramifications at home are beginning to fly as we find ourselves sidelined from this round of admission to the much desired  UN seat.

The Conservatives pointied the finger of blame over the lost opportunity at Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff, who recently spoke out that in his opinion Canada didn't deserve a seat due to the Conservative's attitudes towards the world body.

The Liberals and other opposition parties on the other hand are accepting none of that and rather suggest that it has been the Cosnervatives less than warm embrace of all things United Nations that led to what seems to have been a fairly public rebuke by the voting members.

That debate will no doubt carry on through the fall, into the winter and perhaps on to the next election in Canada, but while it does Canada will be marginalized at the United Nations an organization that it once seemed to provide the glue for.

The fact that our reputation seemingly has declined so much of late is more indicative of a confusing foreign policy and a lack of cohesion among Canadian politicians to put the nations interests ahead of their own political squabbling.

Nothing reinforces that message harder than numbers and no matter how the Government may wish to spin it, Canada had a bad day on the UN scoresheet.

The first round vote between the three countries in the most heated battle had Germany at 128, Portugal 122 and Canada 114.  A count  that cleared the way for Germany to reeive the first non-permanent seat, setting the stage for the Canada/Portuagl run off. Three other nations joined Germany in first ballot victories, Colombia with 186 votes, India with 187 and South Africa with 182 gained entry as their nominations were uncontested with no opposition, allowing them to  win acceptance on the first ballot.

The second round saw the vote total spread grow between Canada and Portugal,  Canada's vote count of 78 trailing Portugal's numbers of 113,  leaving Portugal just fifteen short of the required 128 for acceptance.

It was at that point, with what is described as a loss not previously suffered by Canadian foreign policy still resonating around the chamber,  that Canada's officials withdrew our name for consideration for the two year term on the Security Council.

There is probably enough blame to go around on this foreign relations mess, though lost it seems to all  is how much has changed not only for Canada's international reputation, but at the United Nations itself, an organization which has declined in relevance since it's once lofty ambitions of the sixties and seventies.

While the Government offers up its thoughts on the embarrassing setback and the Opposition parties lay their blame at the feet of the Harper Government,  Canadians will probably just sit back and wonder what's become of a national reputation and of a world institution that first shone brightly when Lester Pearson made Canada's name one to be respected and not dismissed as quickly as this vote suggests.

While the UN of today is nowhere the same body of sensible thought that Mr. Pearson would have remembered, the simple fact is that in order to effect change you need to be allowed inside the circle to speak out on it, and for the next two years Canada will have to sit on the sidelines and wonder as to what could have been.

There's a full review on line from the events of today at the UN, some of the more informative pieces can be found below.

National Post-- Canada withdraws from race for UN Security Council seat
National Post-- Tories prepare the excuses as UN sinks Security Council bid
Globe and Mail-- Canada abandons UN bid in embarrassing turn for Harper
Globe and Mail-- Sad day for Canada’ sparks call for foreign-policy overhaul
Globe and Mail-- It’s Stephen Harper’s loss
CBC-- Cannon blames Ignatieff for Canada's UN vote loss
Xinhuanet-- Five new rotating members elected to UN Security Council
CTV News-- Tories blame Ignatieff for losing bid for UN seat
Toronto Sun-- Canada loses bid for UN Security Council seat
Toronto Star-- Canada withdraws from race for UN council seat

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