Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign for a United Nations Security Council seat has been firing on all cylinders as the June 17 vote approaches. But all those who value a rules-based international order and a vibrant UN should favour the other contenders — Norway and Ireland — over Canada for the coveted positions.
No member state is perfect, but on balance Canada’s competitors for the “Western Europe and Others” seats have better international track records. They are simply more responsible global citizens.
Here are ten reasons why:
Ireland and Norway endorsed the Basel Ban Amendment on eliminating the export of waste from rich to poor countries. Canada refused to support the initiative, which became binding last year after 97 countries ratified it.
Canada’s Security Council competitors also signed the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Ottawa has not.
Norway and Ireland have ratified a greater number of International Labour Organization conventions than Canada.
Ireland joined most of the world’s countries at the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. It also signed onto the resulting treaty and is not part of the nuclear-armed NATO alliance.
Neither Norway nor Ireland are part of the G7, a U.S.-led alliance of seven wealthy countries. Nor are they members of the Lima Group of countries seeking to overthrow Venezuela’s UN-recognized government. Canada launched the Lima Group with Peru in mid-2017 after the Organization of American States, driven primarily by Caribbean member states, refused to criticize Venezuela. Norway has sought to mediate the Venezuelan crisis.
Unlike Canada, Norway and Ireland are not members of the “Core Group” of foreign ambassadors that have largely determined Haitian affairs since Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government was overthrown in 2004. Some Haitians have dubbed the group, led by the U.S., France and Canada, as the “Core Gang.”
In contrast to Canada, neither Norway nor Ireland have been singled out for criticism by at least four UN bodies for failing to hold their mining companies accountable for their international operations. Despite a litany of environmental and human rights abuses by Canadian extractive firms, Ottawa continues to offer some of the most controversial companies diplomatic and financial backing.
Compared to Canada, both Ireland and Norway have far better records on upholding Palestinian rights at the UN. Since 2000 Canada has voted against 166 General Assembly resolutions critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Ireland and Norway haven’t voted against any of these resolutions.
Ireland and Norway have contributed far less to climate disturbances, which are ravaging parts of Africa and Asia that bear little responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. Both Norway and Ireland’s per capita emissions are a little more than half of Canada’s.
Even under the terms Ottawa itself has laid down for its Security Council bid, Norway and Ireland are more deserving of the seats. Justin Trudeau claims countries should support Canada for a two-year position on the UN’s most powerful decision-making body because “Canada is committed to working with partners around the world to build a better future for all of us — from growing economies that benefit everyone, to fighting climate change, to creating a safer, more peaceful world.” The website promoting Canada’s candidacy for the Security Council says that “climate change represents an existential threat to vulnerable countries” and “Canada understands the importance of rules-based international order.” Based on these points, Ireland and Norway are better candidates.
Despite its good reputation, the Trudeau government does not reflect the desire of most Canadians to be a force for peace and human rights in the world. To reconstruct after the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Security Council requires voices that do not follow Washington and instead seek positive change. When Canada has a better foreign policy, focused on overcoming global inequities, then it will deserve the confidence of the world and a seat on the Security Council.
Bianca Mugyenyi is an author and former co-executive director of The Leap. She currently coordinates the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute.