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NEWS: Harper to address the UN, Sept. 22 and 23

The Vancouver Sun reports today that, “In what is doubtless a nod to 2010 being an election year for Canada at the United Nations, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will address the world body twice next week — after having given only one other speech at the UN’s annual debate since he led the Conservatives to power in 2006.” Harper’s objective? A seat on the powerful United Nations Security Council.

Harper will address the General Assembly on Wednesday September 22 when it is expected to be “a packed hall of world leaders” and on Thursday September 23 at a high-level debate on the world’s progress toward meeting eight development goals leaders set at the 2000 Millennium summit.” Harper is expected to emphasize his government’s “record in helping the developing world”.

The Council of Canadians has raised three main reasons why the Harper government does not deserve a leadership role at the United Nations.

1- The Harper government refuses to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. On September 13, 2007, 143 countries voted in favour of this historic declaration at the United Nations. Only Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand voted against it. Since then, Australia signed the declaration in 2009 and New Zealand signed in 2010.

2- The Harper government opposes the human right to water and sanitation. On July 28, 2010, 122 countries voted to recognize that drinking water and sanitation are human rights essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights. The resolution also called on member states to help poorer countries scale up their efforts to provide clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for everyone. An estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. The Harper government abstained at this vote.

3- The Harper government refuses to address the global threat of climate change. Canada had pledged under the Kyoto accord to a 6 per cent cut in emissions below 1990 levels by 2012. Despite that legally-binding pledge, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions actually increased by about 26 per cent between 1990 and 2007. Harper’s new climate change targets would see our emissions rise an additional 2.5 percent over 1990 levels by 2020. In May 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “I urge Canada to comply with the targets set out by the Kyoto Protocol. The science is sobering. Both the planet and the calendar are telling us that we are running out of time.”

The Council believes that unless the Harper government takes leadership on the critical issues of Indigenous rights, water justice, and climate change, it does not deserve a leadership role at the United Nations.

We are not alone in taking this position. In April, the Toronto Star reported that, “Bob Fowler, highly regarded as both a former Ottawa mandarin and Canada’s longest-serving UN ambassador, warned that Canada may no longer deserve a council place.” Fowler says, “The world doesn’t need more of the Canada they have been getting.”

The Globe and Mail has reported that the Harper government has been “trading away votes on UN General Assembly resolutions, seats on other important world institutions, clauses in trade agreements and public support in worldwide conflicts in exchange for votes on this one crucial campaign”. The Council of Canadians argues that if Prime Minister Harper wants the support of the world, it should rejoin the international community and change its position on these critical issues.

The Council of Canadians will outline these concerns and send a letter today to the 192 permanent missions at the United Nations calling on them to press the Harper government on the position it has taken on Indigenous rights, the right to water, and climate change.

To read the Council of Canadians letter, click here.