OTTAWA – In the early hours of Friday morning, Marc-Andre Blanchard will see his first new view of the New York skyline from behind the wheel of an affordable rental car.
For the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, that moment will not only mark a long journey home from Toronto, but also the start of a big round of politicization – the final push to win Canada’s temporary seat in UN Security. Council next month.
Since mid-March, Blanchard has been carrying out a UN mission remotely from Toronto, directing staff who have worked at home since the COVID-19 attack in New York got them out of their Manhattan embassy for stopping life at the epicenter of the pandemic epicenter.
But with less than a month before the vote that will pit Canada against Norway and Ireland for two temporary seats available on the council, Blanchard said Thursday, it’s time to return to New York – even that would mean a little diplomacy. different.
Diplomacy during COVID-19 has become a steady stream of video conferencing from morning to late at night, sometimes interspersed with virtual “Zoom dinners” with a small group of fellow ambassadors.
On Thursday morning, Blanchard spoke with several of his international colleagues about his upcoming return.
“For the first time, we are increasing the prospect that maybe we will take a walk in Central Park together and observe social distance,” Blanchard said in an interview.
“But at least try to start again, work, see other people and have a very important conversation in diplomacy.”
He said Canada’s campaign for the council was based on what had been done to help fight the pandemic – holding like-minded countries to ensure food security in developing countries, keeping vital supply chains open throughout the world, and working on new financing models to help struggling countries whose economies were destroyed by a pandemic.
Canada also held meetings with several small embassies in New York in March to help them build a system at home because the pandemic was crippling the city.
“If you ask me, what is your campaign? Well, this is our campaign,” he said. “The best campaign for Canada is to let Canada become Canada.”
Canada lost its final bid for a security council seat in 2010 when tiny Portugal received more support. Canada has held seats on the council six times, each in the previous six decades.
In 1999-2000, Canada ran and won the “human security” platform supported by Lloyd Axworthy, who was the foreign minister who led the campaign.
“We do that by protecting civilians when we were last on the security council. We will do this with inequality and economic security when we arrive at the security council,” he said.
“Inequality is a very, very large source of conflict and instability. The security council needs to see the conflict through the economic prism.”
In addition to its five permanent members – U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China – the council consists of 10 non-permanent members who serve two years.
Blanchard said Canada hoped to use nine other non-permanent members to focus its great strength on something they might agree on – the need to improve economic conditions in all countries.
“We are strong enough to be able to reach other member countries, but we are small enough to know that we need to act together if we want results.”
Blanchard is very concerned about the failure and limitations of the Security Council, including its inability to stop a decade-long massacre in Syria because Russia and the Chinese opposition as permanent members have veto power.
“There is a problem where we will never agree with China or Russia, and other members of the Security Council, maybe,” Blanchard said. “We see it in Syria … we see it in COVID with China and the United States.”
Blanchard, 54, is not a career diplomat. He is a successful lawyer who supports the Liberal party and was given a UN job in 2016.
He is not the first politically appointed person to win a diplomatic post, but he has become natural in balanced diplomacy, said Stephen Lewis, a New Democrat who served as ambassador to the United Nations in Canada in the 1980s under the Prime Minister’s Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney.
If Canada wins the seat, it’s because of Blanchard, said Lewis, who remains active in the United Nations circle as the head of the organization that is trying to combat abuse by peacekeepers.
“We have an ambassador in New York who happens to be intelligent, articulate, persuasive, highly respected and respected by the ambassadors of colleagues at the United Nations. And that makes all the difference in the world,” Lewis said.
Blanchard considers his colleagues at the United Nations highly valued. He couldn’t wait to see them after he arrived alone and dropped his rental car at LaGuardia Airport.
“The biggest advantage of this job is the relationship that I build with my colleagues, individually. Everyone is very special,” he said.
“Everybody brings a lot of things, be it a big country or a small country. This is what we missed.”
The Canadian Press report was first published on May 21, 2020.
Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press
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