(This column originally appeared in the National Poston May 18th, 2017)
Foreign travel. Embassies. Contributions to international organizations. Few people would claimthat international diplomacy is going to be cheap. But with recent news that Canada is gearing up for apotentially expensive campaignto secure a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2021, it’s fair for Canadians to ask: just how much is this special effort going to cost, and what precisely does Canada gain if it wins?
As its name implies, the Security Council is tasked with maintaining international peace and security. With five veto-wielding permanent members (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China) and 10 rotating members who serve two-year terms, it’s often thought of as the UN’s most exclusive club-within-a-club.
The last time Canada embarked on such a campaign in 2010 (unsuccessfully as it turned out)it cost taxpayers about $1 million—and that was by a government that didn’t seem terribly concerned about winning it. Fast forward to today, and at least $500,000 has already been spent—and that’s not counting the 10 full-time government employees working on the bid (at anestimated total cost of $1 million per year). How high could it go? A lot higher. Australia, a similarly-sized middle-power country,spent $25 millionto win its seat in 2012.
What is the money spent on? The good news is there’s no need for tacky campaign literature to persuade UN delegates of the principled policy reasons Canada deserves their vote. The bad news is that showering delegates with free gifts and travel isn’t cheap.
Giveaways aren’t the only way to sway votes, of course. There’s also the possibly of vote trading (Canadareportedly secured Guyana’s voteby promising to support the appointment of a Guyanese judge to the International Criminal Court in 2010) or good old-fashioned bribery (Turkey dropped acool $85 million in aid and loan commitmentsto win a seat in 2008.)
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