That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Spare me the seat

Before ascending to the UN Security Council, methinks that Canada needs a little Insecurity Counselling.

Sorry to say it, but Ottawa’s last-minute sprint (and the associated G&M OMG dramatisation of it) towards a possible temporary UN Security Council seat seems a bit sad to me. Like just one more occasion for neurotic ultra-patriots to drown themselves in the sticky-sweet syrup of false national glory. The race is framed much less like advancing a clear agenda for Canada’s role in the international community, or a plan for how we might contribute something useful to international peace and security. It seems more like a big, old-fashioned Own The Podium flag-waving parade.

And of course. Stephen Harper may not know what he’d like to do with a seat, but he knows winning it could “prove” to voters that he’s doing a good job out there in that big old world, whatever the Liberals or the media say.

But the mainstream media are helping to play along, such is the attraction of a ticker tape parade. the fact is, though, there are 10 temporary Security Council members at any one time, plus the five permanent members. How many of them trumpet themselves as being somehow more important, more “nationally mature,” more loved and lauded than other countries? Are they really much better recognised for being “part of the inner sanctum” of the UN for two years?

The overriding interest in Canada’s press (and Official Ottawa) is: “how will the world (and voters) think of Canada if we win?” O.K. To get a sense how an SC seat would impact the world’s view of Canada, how many current temporary Security Council members can you identify right now (yes, without Googling)? That’s a good barometer for how many people around the world will notice Canada’s place on the temporary council, or Portugal’s, or anyone else’s.

I’m not dismissing the Security Council or the role it plays, or the UN, or anything of the sort. But unfortunately, like in many instances, well-meaning but insecure cringeworthy flag-wavers miss the point about what constitutes an effective role on the international stage. A Security Council seat would be a little extra bauble, a useful platform from which we could potentially contribute.

But it won’t counteract the reality that our international reputation continues to diminish on the issues that count. We’ve already scuppered the global environmental file, we’ve been patronising and ideological on development and maternal health, and we’ve done nothing constructive to advance peace or human rights. We do have some shiny new jet planes on the way, of course…

We need to apply our energies to international goodwill much more consistently – and not just lunge for a sparkly trophy because it’s politically flattering.

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, , , , ,

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October 2010

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