Canada’s lost decade: Withered diplomacy, and whither multilateralism?

Saturation coverage and shocking images of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and Europe have focussed attention on Canadian foreign policy and on this country’s decade-long record of diplomatic and multilateral underperformance.

While unusual for an electoral campaign, such scrutiny is long overdue.

The inventor of peacekeeping, longstanding proponent of North-South relations, and determined promoter of sustainable development – once universally welcomed as an honest broker, helpful fixer and provider of good offices and innovative ideas – is today regarded as an obstruction to progress, a country with little to bring to the table.

Canada’s vaunted foreign service has languished, marginalized and under-employed by a government uninterested in professional diplomatic advice or enlightened international initiative.

Unrecognizable to its former partners and friends, Canada has become something of an international pariah – a serial unachiever, the fossil of the year, the country that others don’t want in the room. The one-time boy scout has become a distant outlier in the international system, sometimes ostracized but more often simply ignored

In a world in which nothing can be achieved by acting alone, Canadian influence has become spectral, and the orchestration of action in concert, through the United Nations and most other international organizations, next to impossible.

The Conservative Government has shot Canada in the foot when we are in a race.

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Canadian Multilateralism: An Opportunity for Diplomatic Alternatives?

Last month the Canadian International Council released its report, Open Canada, on possible new directions for Canadian foreign policy. There is much to commend about this easily-digested document, not least the fact that at a critical moment a group of thoughtful Canadians took the time and effort required to bring the ambitious project to completion within a very short time frame.

My observations are directed at the content in Chapter 2, entitled Multilateralism: The Revolution. That section contains most of the authors’ commentary related to diplomacy in an interdependent, connected and network-centric world.

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