Stephen Harper’s death bed repentance regarding his hostile attitude towards the UN apparently didn’t fool enough delegations to get the suddenly coveted Security Council seat. (Teeny Portugal got 113 votes to Canada’s 78.) This bodes well for the United Nations for if Canada, with its long list of offensive, reactionary and perverse stands on issues had been rewarded for its behaviour, one would have to wonder if the UN really is corrupt.
It is amusing to think back on the trajectory that this misanthrope of a Prime Minister has followed on the UN and the Security Council seat. Like so much else about government, Harper has a visceral hatred of everything about the social democratic and liberal state. His goal has always been to dismantle the activist state and turn it into a dumbed down, minimalist institution consisting of the military, the police (and prisons), CSIS, and the Bank of Canada. Everything else, in Harper’s fantasy world, would be handled by the private sector.
But Harper’s anger has always gotten the better of him. The man has little impulse control and if you want to accomplish anything in politics – even dismantling the government – you have to be strategic and you have to have good judgment. Harper has demonstrated time and again that he cannot abide compromise or biding his time. It has severely hampered his agenda and prevented him from achieving a majority government.
For virtually all of political life he has been openly contemptuous of human rights and showed little but disdain for the United Nations and everything it stands for – peacekeeping, poverty reduction, health protection, bio-diversity, climate action. That was true of George Bush, too, but Bush (or his brain trust) finally figured out that it was much more effective to try to dominate the UN and use it for US imperial goals than simply to rant and rave about it.
Harper is a late comer to the strategy – thank goodness. His efforts at the UN a few weeks back were laughable, except that his speeches served to remind of us of all the rotten positions Canada has taken in recent years. His initiative on maternal health was also too little, too late. Even here, he couldn’t resist sullying his effort by tossing a bone to his anti-abortion supporters.
Part of the defeat (we can’t know for sure with secret balloting) was almost certainly Canada’s offensive and unsupportable position regarding Israel and the Palestinians. I would bet that every Arab and Muslim country voted against Canada. This is the moment when Harper’s comment about the Israeli vicious invasion of Lebanon – a “measured response” – has finally come back to bite him. I wonder how he likes being measured himself. Even children learn that there are consequences to their actions – something Harper still cannot accept.
The humiliating rejection of Canada’s bid provides a unique opening for civil society organizations working on issues embraced by the UN. Activists now have to move quickly to take advantage – on bio-diversity, asbestos, Palestinian rights, and on Indigenous rights, the right to water, poverty reduction and climate change – exposing the now undeniable fact that Canada’s policies on these fronts and others have gained us the status as recalcitrant, reactionary state.
Stephen Harper has humiliated us internationally and we need to make him pay for it.
It is gratifying to know that, finally, the world has taken notice – something that rarely happens simply because there are so few mechanisms for expressing criticism. The vote and its secret ballot were like a global referendum of nations on Canada’s behaviour.
We are left sitting in the corner with a dunce cap on.
Of course, we shouldn’t let this big-power side show distract us from the flaws of the UN itself. The whole notion of the Security Council is an offense to democracy and equality of nations. It is geo-politics institutionalized with the most powerful countries sharing the power to dictate to other nations what they are going to do, how they are going to it and what punishment they will receive if they don’t obey. In a body that genuinely reflected the interests of the world, there would be no security council.
The elimination of this cold war relic – now the subject of constant manipulation by the US for its own goal of global domination – is a long way off. But it is important to keep in mind just what its role has been and what a genuine community of nations would look like.
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