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Senator Gerard Craughwell: “What Price a Seat at the UNSC?”

What is it that makes a seat at the United Nations Security Council something countries spend hundreds of thousands if not millions of their taxpayer’s monies to secure? Is there not something deeply immoral about any process which involves staging shows with Rock Stars for the diplomats to try to convince them to vote for that country?

Not so terribly long ago there were allegations that Qatar had bought the rights to the World Cup. This led to outrage across the world and cries of the process being corrupt. So, the question is what is the currency of corruption? Must hard cash change hands? Can you put a price on the opportunity to meet with a high-profile Rock Star? What of being lavished at some reception, is there a price for this? I would suggest that the currency of corruption on the international stage does not necessarily mean the exchange of cash. I would argue that any process which seeks to woo favour whether through direct cash payments or access to specific events has corruption at its core.

Currently Canada, Norway and Ireland are in the race to win one of the two coveted United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seats.  CBC News, in a recent article, showed the the Canadian government has spent $1.5 million since 2016 on the campaign, with $1 million in the last 10 months alone. Whether Canada did itself any favours by invited UN ambassadors to a concert with Celine Dion being the top of the bill is open to question. Was this to woo votes? Clearly that would be a matter of opinion.

Up to 2019 Norway’s campaign for this highly coveted seat on the UNSC has run to NOK 17 million (USD 1,7 million). Norway claimed that its campaign would be guided by the principles of transparency and accountability. The Government provide information about how this work is carried out, and the costs entailed, on a six-monthly basis. I have no evidence of Rock Stars or lavish receptions and it appears that Norway is using normal diplomatic activities to win its seat.

Ireland has put forward a classy bid for the UNSC seat. Recent media articles inform that to date the Irish Government has spent over €850,000 on its campaign. Ireland claims its bid for a seat on the UNSC is not about power or status. The Government makes much of its small country status and its independence. Yet when called on to treat all countries equally the Government ignores what it does not want to hear. For example, the Irish Government refuses to set up a diplomatic mission in Taiwan a country much the same size as Ireland with an aggressive neighbour on its doorstep. Yet the EU and many of its member countries have missions in Taiwan. The Irish Government refuses to open an embassy in Iran which could have a significant influence within that country to the benefit of the people living there. If as a independent nation we are afraid to upset the Chinese over Taiwan or the USA over Iran how are we going to act independently on the UNSC?

I believe that the current competition for the UNSC seat should be cancelled and a new process started. Perhaps those entering the next competition could woo voters based on their performance on the world stage and a good place to start splashing the cash might be supporting children and their access to health care and education. Campaigning countries might provide examples of how they have delivered for children the right to play instead of being engaged in Child Labour to feed the consumption of the west. Perhaps a country might be judged as a suitable candidate for the UNSC where they can show they have given children a voice and protected them from violence and abuse. The UNICEF claims that all children have the same rights. No matter where they live or who they are if this is a stated aim of the UNICFE then they have failed badly. There is so much good the wealthy countries who are spending millions on this UNSC vanity project could do but it appears they would rather spend their cash in wooing votes.

As a proud Irishman I want very much to see my country take its place on the world stage. I want to see my country speak out openly and fearlessly on the abuses of power in the world. I want to see my country engage with all countries and where it sees abuses of human rights to speak out. I want my country sitting at the table of the United Nations Security Council but not at any cost and especially not where there is the whiff of corruption. 



This piece was originally published by Senator Craughwell on LinkedIn. It is republished here with his permission.

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