Canada’s new ambassador to the United Nations says it needs reform and should adopt the Liberal government’s more-collaborative approach to problem-solving as a way to break down the bureaucratic isolation that frequently exists between UN agencies.
Marc-André Blanchard, who has been in his post for less than six months, outlined his plans in a sit-down interview with The Globe and Mail Wednesday, including his ideas on how to improve the 70-year-old institution that was founded after the Second World War.
“The reform that is needed is actually that the UN work differently than the UN in the past. There’s a lot of silos at the UN at the moment, between the agencies for example,” Mr. Blanchard said.
“We will need to have the various agencies at the UN focusing on working together, making sure there’s no duplication, making sure there’s a whole UN approach to some of the problems.”
The UN has 15 specialized agencies, including the UN Refugee Agency and the World Health Organization, as well as a number of other programs, funds and related organizations.
For years, critics have blamed the UN’s inability to get things done on its bureaucratic inefficiencies. Mr. Blanchard rejected the idea that the UN is “all talk and no action,” reinforcing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s belief that it plays a critical role in global affairs.
Mr. Blanchard made the comments in the midst of the UN General Assembly, which started this week in New York. He said the UN will need to adopt a more collaborative approach if it wants to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. The SDGs are a major theme at the General Assembly this year and call on countries to adopt 17 sustainable-development goals focused on ending poverty, fighting inequality and tackling climate change over the next 15 years.
Mr. Blanchard, a high-powered lawyer from Quebec and long-time Liberal, arrived at his UN post in April. He served as president of the Quebec Liberal Party from 2000 to 2008, and was a member of Mr. Trudeau’s transition team.
Security Council campaign
Shortly before Mr. Blanchard’s arrival in New York, Mr. Trudeau announced Canada’s intention to seek a seat on the UN Security Council, the body’s most powerful branch, for 2021-22. The ambassador will lead Canada’s campaign for one of the 10 rotating, non-permanent seats, which it hasn’t held since 2000. The previous Conservative government withdrew Canada’s candidacy for a seat in 2010 when it became clear it would lose to Portugal.
Although Mr. Blanchard acknowledged the strong competition posed by Norway and Ireland for the seat, he said Canada brings something distinct to the table. During a recent visit to Africa with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, one leader told him why Canada stands out.
“The difference is that because of Canada’s history, because of your diversity, because of your resources, because of your friends and your allies, you actually can make things happen. And not all countries can make things happen,” Mr. Blanchard said, recounting his conversation in Africa. “For me, it encapsulates the narrative, to a certain extent, to our campaign.”
Peace building plans: focus on Africa
Last month, the Liberal government announced $450-million and up to 600 troops for UN peace operations, but has yet to say where Canadian troops will be deployed. Mr. Blanchard said a number of African leaders have expressed interest in the Canadian military’s strategic, training, co-ordination and bilingual capabilities.
He said Canada will focus its peace building efforts on areas of expertise. For instance, Canada can play a key role in helping countries, such as Libya, build stronger institutions, he said.
‘Canada is back’: What does that mean?
The Trudeau government has become known for one of its favourite catchphrases: “Canada is back.” After years of Conservative foreign policy, the Liberals are working to “restore” Canada as a leader in the world, including its role at the UN. So, what does the Liberal catchphrase mean for ordinary Canadians? Mr. Blanchard said re-engagement with the world will create more economic opportunities for Canadians in the global market, especially in Asia and Africa where Canadian expertise, such as infrastructure, renewable energy and access to clean water, are desired.
“I actually want Canadians to be more audacious and go and take on these opportunities because we are going to help with security of the world, we are going to get new consumers.”
NEW YORK — The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2016 7:58PM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2016 8:00PM EDT