Canada is currently on the campaign trail to obtain support for a non-permanent member seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). This position is a significant one in global politics and allows for a country to be at the forefront of important global security decisions. Even though a non-permanent member has nowhere near as much power as a permeant five-member (Russia, France, the UK, China and the US), having a seat at the table gives a platform to share a country’s values and ethics and to help develop a global standard of conduct.
The UNSC’s role is a noble one, albeit, an aspirational one. The structure that created and continues to run the UNSC is a deeply flawed one that highlights the drawbacks of attempting to unite the world. In an effort to gain support for a term as a non-permanent member on the UNSC, countries must play the election game of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back.” It also serves as an arena for permeant five members to throw their weight around and keep in place a system that favours their dominance.
This year’s round of voting to elect new non-permanent members takes place in June and Canada is competing against Ireland and Norway for the seat reserved for Western Europe and Others. Canada’s campaign perfectly illustrates the struggle and difficulty that comes with attempting to be a part of an important global body.
During his last campaign stop in Africa, Prime Minister Trudeau met with Senegalese President Macky Sall to secure the country’s support for Canada’s UNSC seat bid. Media reports are suggesting that Senegal will likely vote in favour of Canada, but this support comes with a debate surrounding morals.
Senegal has significant human rights abuses in way of LGTBQ2+ rights and gender-based violence. Homosexuality is illegal in Senegal and punishable by up to five years in prison and rape was only deemed criminal a couple of months ago.
While Canada is certainly no saint regarding issues of human rights, is it better for Canada to align itself with a country that so clearly displays discriminatory and anti-equality views?
It would be very hypocritical for Canada to act superior toward Senegal, but it is the norm in Canadian culture to be moving forward on these issues and working to becoming more inclusive. How does a government face its women and the LGTBQ2+ community when it does not stand up for them abroad?
The other problem for Canada in being elected to the UNSC is China. By now it has become common knowledge that Canada is not in China’s good books due to Canada’s role in arresting Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Relations between the countries have become increasingly chilled and it is unlikely that they will thaw by the June election. As a permanent-five member, China has veto power in the UNSC and as a show of asserting their control over global politics, they may veto Canada’s bid.
Canada’s hopes for a UNSC seat showcases the frustrations of global politics and brings into question what is more important, speaking out against injustices faced by minorities from their governments or being included in important global decision making?
It also brings to light how desperately in need of reform the UNSC is as Canada’s attempt to gain a seat might be rendered useless based on the great power politics of WWI.
The UNSC, like the UN itself, is a necessary evil. With globalization and the increasingly wide array of ways we are interconnected, a global governing system is needed. There needs to be a platform available for countries to talk issues out and a body that also holds them accountable. And this is what the UN provides.
In an age of growing animosity toward governmental systems that are not changing enough to alleviate the suffering faced by various international communities, the UN needs to set an example.
The UN needs to modify the way it conducts itself. There needs to be a less political way of obtaining a seat on the Security Council. One that doesn’t have countries campaigning for votes and potentially stifling calls for justice. While the original intention may have been to give all countries a voice in deciding the make-up of specific bodies, the refrain from other countries of holding each other to account works to validate certain practices.
The UN also needs to do away with the permanent-five. The global power dynamics are not the same as they once were (ex. France) and no country should have the unchecked power to veto whatever policy decision does not suit them. The permeant position and veto power were instrumental in securing the support needed for the creation of the UN, but the institution has become enough of a norm in the global governing system that it doesn’t need to indulge certain countries as greatly anymore.
Times are changing and the UN needs to with change with them.