Tag: UN reform

Denied-ada. Canada fails to get a UN Security Council Seat. (But how many EU Nations do we need on there anyway?)

It was Canadian Thanksgiving this past weekend but Canukistan has one less thing to be grateful for today – it failed to get a UN Security Council seat for the first time in 50 years of trying.

Alas, (eh?), Canada lost out to Germany and Portugal in the Western group (with India, South Africa and Colombia running uncontested for the other three seats.)

The Harper government, ridiculously, is blaming Liberal opposition leader Michael Ignatieff for the humiliating loss. This makes somewhere between zero and negative sense.

Instead, there are several factors to blame for this – the EU is a united front whereas Canada needs to lobby hard in the UN. Additionally, the electoral process seems to be pretty sketchy – and heavily dependent on gifts by suitor countries. (Apparently we went with vials of maple syrup. Way to go, guys.)And, as the Globe and Mail points out, the government hadn’t exactly had run a gung-ho campaign in order to secure it.

But it’s also a fact that Canada has been engaging the world in a very different fashion over the last few years. Where as it was once associated peacekeeping and Lester B. Pearson, it has been actively building up its airforce, accusing the Russians of invading our airspace, actively worked against climate change (and now on my way to work I have to pass around 20 billboards beside London City Hall that basically accuse Canada of systematically raping the earth with its tar sands.) I’m not saying that I necessarily disagree with all of the above, (no one likes hippies) but our national response/PR could have been much better.

Additionally, as former UN Ambassador Robert Fowler pointed out in a damning critique at the beginning of this year, our African policy is basically non-existent. The days when it could be said that the UN was embedded in Canadian DNA are clearly over. (I wonder if we’ll be taking the peacekeepers off of our $10 bills now?)

So, let’s be clear. I do understand the UN vote, but I find myself unsatisfied for another reason: There are going to be four EU countries represented on the Council. Is this at all fair? Or a good thing for the UN? I have my doubts.

But UN Security Council reform is a topic for another day…year… decade….

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What if a Caliphate had a Seat at the UN?

So this past week I traveled to New York to conduct interviews with representatives of the Holy’s See’s Permanent Obverver Mission to the United Nations as part of my project into norm contestation among global civil society actors during multilateral treaty negotiations.

I found the papal diplomats to be informed, open-minded, friendly and intellectually engaged about human rights and human security. But they didn’t at all like the idea that I was interviewing them as part of a project on “non-state” influences on UN treaty-making.

They imagined I’d be interviewing other governments as well, when in fact they’re on a list otherwise filled by NGOs I’ll be talking to, since the focus of my project is on “global civil society.” (Though one source wittily pointed out that the NGO reps are the least civil actors out there, because they’re not trained as diplomats.)

It’s true the Holy See has the ostensible status of a state for the purposes of multilateral treaty negotiations. It sits on deliberations over UN treaty, declaration and resolution language, and though it doesn’t vote on these documents the Pope chooses whether or not to sign them. Plus the fact that the culture at the UN strives for consensus means any individual actor has a fair amount of influence as a veto player, so the Holy See is in a great position to stick it out until other delegates are worn down and tired of arguing to get language into treaties that reflects its principled positions.

My project isn’t about the Holy See’s status, but these dialogues with my informants got me thinking about the issue. There’s been a lot of criticism over whether the church should have this power relative to other non-state actors – other NGOs have the right to be in the building, and lobby delegates constantly in the hallways, but no other non-state actor has the right to actually sit at the table and negotiate with governments. One of the articles I read as I prepped for this trip suggested that either the Holy See should lose this status or, to be fair, other religions should be represented as well.

Interesting idea, eh? Suppose Saudi Arabia, for example, were to enter into a treaty with the city of Mecca similar to Italy’s treaty with what is now the Vatican City State, and Sunni Islam were to re-establish a caliphate centered in Mecca but territorially distinct from any Muslim majority state, with transnational moral authority over all Sunni Muslims, and then it sent diplomats throughout international society on the model of the Catholic church. Shia Islam could create a parallel Imamte perhaps centered on Tehran.

Would a dynamic like this make for a moderating political Islam, capable of integrating into international society and institutions as the Catholic Church has done, separate from the politics of Islamic governments, though sometimes allied with them; and able to represent Islamic perspectives on issues like the laws of war, family policy, human rights, etc, from outside the politics of the nation-state system? Would it constitute a space from within which the silent moderate Islamic majority could exercise a greater influence on political Islam? Or, would such an institution be vulnerable to capture by extremists and bode ill for a pluralistic international society?

Thoughts?

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