|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada
Despite not having won election to the Security Council, Canada would continue to work towards a transparent Council that was accountable to Member States as well as responsive to contemporary realities and challenges, Lawrence Cannon, the country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said today.
“We will not back down from our principles which form the basis of our great country and we will continue to pursue them on the international stage,” Mr. Cannon said at a Headquarters press conference. The country had demonstrated its leadership on peace and security, as well as development issues, at the Group of Eight (G-8) Muskoka Summit, and its economic leadership at the Group of Twenty (G-20) Summit in Toronto.
“ Canada is proud of its track record on the world stage,” the Minister said, adding that 2010 was its “international year”, during which it had pledged to double its aid to Africa and fulfilled that commitment. Canada was also on track to double its overall development assistance by March 2011. Since taking office in 2006, the current Government had also made a significant contribution to peace and security in Africa, he said. Not only was Canada currently involved in 18 United Nations, or United Nations-mandated, peacekeeping operations, it also supported the Organization’s peacekeeping efforts through capacity-building, training, planning and logistics, as well as the strategic provision of personnel.
Canada had pursued a “robust” foreign policy, asserted its sovereignty in the North and focused its foreign aid on countries that needed it most, the Minister said. “While right, these decisions were not always popular,” he added. It had not been helpful that opponents of Canada’s election to the Security Council could point to the fact that, for the first time in its history, the country had not been united in its bid. [Leader of the Opposition Michael Ignatieff had said that Canada did not deserve a Council seat given the current Government’s track record.]
Nevertheless, he said, Canada would continue, with its partners inside and outside the Council, to advance its interests on the international stage, including through organizations such as the General Assembly, the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, the Commonwealth, La Francophonie and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. “Canada will continue to demonstrate leadership, advancing our national interests and foreign policy priorities, supporting the [United Nations] in contributing to peace and stability in the world. We are a nation with a strong international character and an independent foreign policy. We will continue to make our voice heard on the world stage, including through the United Nations,” the Minister said.
Asked why Canada had not pursued the election — having withdrawn its candidacy after the second round of balloting in the General Assembly and paving the way for Portugal’s election — Mr. Cannon said he had decided to concede on the advice of his country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and others. “We thought this was the right thing to do under the circumstances.”
The fact that Canada had not been elected was not a repudiation of its foreign policy, he said in reply to another question. It had run a strong campaign based on principle, but, unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition had determined that Canada did not speak with one voice. He said he was “extremely disappointed” that Mr. Ignatieff had indicated that the country did not deserve the seat, adding that he had never seen any leader of an opposition party dismiss a candidacy for the Security Council.
Responding to a question about the reasons for the defeat, he said it had not been due to any one factor. The Canadian delegation had received strong commitments from other Member States, he said, thanking those who had committed their votes in writing. Following Mr. Ignatieff’s statement, there had been a “Liberal Party scurry” to correct it within the 12-hour news cycle, but the damage had been done, and the diplomatic corps in Ottawa had reported it to their respective capitals. The issue had been used to prevent Canada from acceding to the Council, he said, adding: “Michael Ignatieff’s statement hurt us.”
Asked whether his country’s “de-funding” of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), or the complaint by the African Group that it had delayed debt relief to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had led to a loss of votes, Mr. Cannon replied that the latter had never come up in discussions that he and Permanent Representative John McNee had held with African ambassadors. As for the funding of UNRWA, the Minister for Development had recently corrected all misgivings surrounding that issue, he said, adding that Canada continued to support the agency.
* *** *For information media • not an official record