Rene — Canada, Gaza, and the continuing divide between the haves/have nots

Topic(s): Canada | Comments Off on Rene — Canada, Gaza, and the continuing divide between the haves/have nots

While the UN Human Rights Council condemned Israeli military action in
Gaza and the West Bank on Thursday, Canada was the only country that
voted against the decision. The resolution demanded that Israel immediately lift the siege on Gaza. Canada was the only country to vote against the resolution, while 30 members voted in favour and 15 abstained. The US is no longer a part of the Human Rights Council. Not that there is much hope in such a gesture, but nevertheless, this is the vote:
In favour (30):
Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Zambia.
Against (1):
Abstentions (15):
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom.
The response from Cuba seems appropriate, given the UN Watch group’s presence. I was looking for a more general picture of Canada in relation to current political circumstances. I found this article to be interesting: -rg
Ditching Durban: PM ignores global inequalities
by Jooneed Khan
January 30, 2008
The Durban-II conference set for 2009 is to world politics what the Kyoto Accord is to climate change: a painful but inescapable search for consensus to grapple with the fallout of the past if we are to salvage our common future on our only planet.
Within two short years, the Harper minority government has pulled Canada out of both processes. In a reckless and petulant display of “Fortress North America” mentality, it has jumped ahead of the George W. Bush neo-cons by announcing Canada will not take part in Durban-II.
Global warming and the ecological catastrophe it heralds know no boundaries. The same is true of global social and political resentment. The evidence shows that global warming caused by our patterns of growth and consumption has reached an explosive point. Yet Harper dismissed Kyoto as “a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.”
Opinion polls show that the environment is the main concern of Canadians. Yet at the Bali conference on climate change, the Harper government insisted that all countries, rich and poor, accept the same obligations – or Ottawa won’t budge.
To claim that rich and poor countries are equally responsible for the global condition is to negate the Durban process. After days and nights of wrangling, European ministers paraded before the UN Summit against Racism in 2001 to apologize for the crimes of colonialism, slavery and the slave trade, the dispossession of aboriginal nations, racism and discrimination, and to offer redress in the form of development.
Poverty and wealth
“Poverty is not a question of fate. The poverty of some countries is inextricably linked to the wealth of others,” they conceded.
Canada was there in 2001, with much ambivalence. “Canada does not know if it will stay or go,” said Minister Hedy Fry after the US and Israel withdrew from the summit – and after Matthew Coon Come, president of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), denounced the plight of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples as “the hidden shame” of the country.
But consensus did emerge on the Final Declaration and the Program of Action. Israel was not condemned in terms the Arab countries and Iran wanted. Canada “was right to stay,” Fry concluded, because “we influenced decisions on issues like the Middle East, the plight of indigenous peoples and the injustices of the past.”
Six years later, the Durban Declaration and the Program of Action are still a dead letter. Promises of development plans, like NEPAD for Africa, and debt cancellation, have proven hollow ploys by former colonial masters to avoid claims of “reparations” by the victims and their descendants. The plight of women globally remains ignored.
Polls don’t show that global inequality is of big concern to Canadians. So, as the U.S. and Israel did in 2001 with the original Durban conference, Harper has denounced next year’s Durban-II conference for “expressions of intolerance and anti-semitism which undermine the principles of the UN.”
Diversionary politics
This is old diversionary politics. In September 2007, Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand voted against the UN Declaration on Aboriginal Rights, a non-binding document 25 years in the making. Preparations for Durban-II were already under way at the Human Rights Council headed by Canadian Louise Arbour, when that vote took place.
Russia has its own aboriginal issues, but it chose to abstain from the vote on Aboriginal rights rather than oppose the UN Declaration, and it will be a vice-chair of Durban-II.
India was shamed at Durban-I by its outcastes and dalits who, organized by NGOs, wanted what they considered “Indian Apartheid” to be condemned. India did not slam the door on the process because of this, and it, too, will be a vice-chair of Durban-II. One day after withdrawing from Durban-II, Canada was the only country at the Human Rights Council to vote against a resolution that called for “urgent international action to put an immediate end to the siege of Gaza.” The resolution was adopted by 30 votes, with 15 abstentions.
In March 2007, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) examined Canada’s reports and expressed concern about “heightened risks of racial profiling in the context of increased national security” and “lack of progress” to address discrimination against Aboriginal peoples and First Nations women and their children. With regard to the Durban process, the CERD specifically “recommends that (Canada) include in its next report information on measures taken to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action at the national level.”
“Unsinkable” issues
In November 2007, only two countries (the US and Israel) opposed a resolution, called “From rhetoric to reality,” which appealed for concrete global implementation of Durban-I – 169 countries approved the resolution.
In December 2007, 93 countries voted for a $6.7-million budget proposed for Durban-II. But 41 voted against, including Canada, the U.S., Australia and most of Western Europe.
Rich countries, whose patterns of growth have so devastatingly impacted our global ecology for centuries, are running short of justifications to keep the lid on the social, economic and political inequalities built over the same period into the global system.
Pro-Israeli lobbies understandably were quick to congratulate Harper for his “principled world leadership” against Durban-II. The U.S. watchdog of the UN, EYEontheUN.org, pointed out that the 41 “No” voters contribute 65 percent of the UN’s budget, and said: “Opposition to Durban-II is off to a flying start.”
Support from the opposition Liberals and NDP for Harper’s anti-UN stance on Durban-II is more difficult to understand – although both parties seem to be having second thoughts on this critical global issue as pressure mounts.
To be fair, Ottawa’s move away from UN multilateralism, and preference for NATO interventionism, started under the Liberals (and Bill Clinton) with the bombing of Belgrade during the Kosovo War. Canada also acted with the U.S. and France to topple the elected government of Haiti, under the doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” The Liberals then got us involved with NATO in Southern Afghanistan, where Harper and General Hillier want to keep Canada busy for decades.
North-South dialogue
Of the 26 NATO States, 20 are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, which groups the world’s richest economies), six belong to the G8, and three have veto power (out of five members) at the UN Security Council. This is where global economic, political and military power is concentrated.
The Durban process embodies the decades-old demand for a North-South dialogue by developing countries. Two conferences took place, in 1978 and 1983, but the world was locked in the East-West rivalry, and the North had no time for a dialogue with the South. The end of the Cold War and the onset of globalization led to Durban-I. The U.S. boycott and the strident media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian debate detracted from the issues of the summit. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US – two days after the end of the summit – the “War on Terror” further eclipsed Durban-I.
Progress towards Durban-II shows the issues keep coming back, whatever diversionary tactics are used. Rich countries engaged in what Indian writer Pavan Varma calls “the secession of the winners of globalization” cannot stifle the voice of the “losers.”
The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are outpacing the U.S. in terms of economic growth. The WTO train has ground to a halt. Latin America has opted out of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) project and is setting up its own common markets, its own development bank and its own media networks.
The global socio-political ecology
Democratic revolutions in Venezuela and Bolivia to make national resources serve the poor majority are reactions to the unjust and unequal world system. In Congo-Kinshasa, where Canadian firms are deeply involved, all mining contracts signed over the past decade are under review. Such initiatives are likely to multiply throughout the South. Regarding the Congo, Harper has been silent for 10 months on a unanimous report of Canadian civil society, mining industry, civil servants and experts calling for obligatory social norms on mining companies operating overseas. The March 2007 CERD report also recommends that Canada “explore ways to hold (its) transnational corporations accountable.”
The Conservatives are now pushing Bill C-9 through Parliament. On the surface, it only aims at ratifying the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which Canada signed in 2006. Substantially, it throws all disputes involving Canadian investments overseas into the lap of the World Bank, another global body skewed in favour of rich countries and known for its opacity and lack of democracy.
Instead of attacking Third World voting at the UN, Canada can lead by example and by getting rich countries to help democratize world institutions. Favouring World Bank “arbitration” and NATO interventionism over UN multilateralism will further worsen the global socio-political ecology.
Rev. Jesse Jackson said in Durban in 2001: “In a democracy, when you disagree, you sit down and talk it out, you don’t slam the door.”
Jooneed Khan is an international affairs reporter and analyst with La Presse in Montreal, who covered Durban-I in 2001. He will be contributing a regular column to rabble.ca.