Balance Canada’s Voting Record at the UN

The question of Palestine and related issues have been the subject of numerous resolutions adopted by the Assembly. In fact, every year, there are at least 16 General Assembly resolutions passed on the question of Palestine. These resolutions seek to affirm the right of Palestinians to self-determination, their sovereignty over natural resources, the illegality of Israeli settlements, and so forth. Especially since 2011, Canada’s voting at the UN seems intended to shield Israel from criticism for its human rights abuses against Palestinians. This pattern runs counter to Canada’s own official policy on Israel-Palestine. This pattern also puts Canada in a small losing minority at the UN. As such, Canada should adjust its voting in the UN General Assembly so as to bring it in line with its own official policy on Israel-Palestine. It should begin by supporting resolutions which 1) condemn illegal Israeli “settlements,” 2) support the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied Palestinian territory, and 3) oppose the illegal annexation of Jerusalem.

Overview

The General Assembly is the main policymaking organ of the United Nations, in which all 193 UN member states participate in multilateral discussions of international issues. The question of Palestine and related issues have been the subject of numerous resolutions adopted by the Assembly. In fact, every year, there are at least 16 General Assembly resolutions passed on the question of Palestine. These resolutions seek to affirm the right of Palestinians to self-determination, their sovereignty over natural resources, the illegality of Israeli settlements, and so forth.

In addition to these 16 recurrent resolutions, the General Assembly also occasionally votes on other issues pertaining to Palestine. For example, in 2012, the General Assembly voted in favour of a resolution to accord Palestine non-member observer state status in the UN.[i]  Additionally, in 2017, following a decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, an emergency session at the General Assembly was held. Member nations voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution reiterating that Jerusalem is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations.[ii] Especially since 2011, Canada’s voting at the UN seems intended to shield Israel from criticism for its human rights abuses against Palestinians.  This pattern runs counter to Canada’s own official policy on Israel-Palestine. This pattern also puts Canada in a small losing minority at the UN.

Questions for Federal Candidates

  • Do you believe that it is important for Canada to promote human rights at the UN?
  • Do you believe that UN General Assembly resolutions are significant to the Israel-Palestine peace process?
  • Do you believe that Canada should vote in the General Assembly in accordance with its own official foreign policy?
  • Do you believe that the international community has a shared responsibility to advance peace in Israel-Palestine?

If elected:

  • Will you consider encouraging Canada’s Permanent Mission to adopt a more balanced and defensible approach to the Question of Palestine at the UN?
  • Will you work within caucus to raise awareness of Canada’s contradictory voting record in the UN General Assembly?

Supporting Points

  • International Law and the UN Position. Each of the resolutions on Palestine passed annually by the General Assembly are rooted in international law. These resolutions frequently cite key pieces of international law, including the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For example, every year the General Assembly votes on a resolution affirming the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people over their natural resources. In demanding that Israel cease the exploitation and endangerment of natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territories, this resolution points to the protections outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also refers to Israel’s obligations as an Occupying Power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.[iii] In addition to referencing important pieces of international law, these resolutions also frequently reiterate recommendations made by other UN bodies. For example, a resolution is voted on annually by the General Assembly to condemn Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people. This declaration is merely a reiteration of numerous Security Council resolutions, Human Rights Council resolutions, and UN Fact-finding Mission reports.[iv] Lastly, the mere fact that these resolutions are passed, year after year, by an overwhelming majority in the General Assembly demonstrates the growing international consensus surrounding these issues.
  • Canada’s Official Position. Canada’s voting record in the General Assembly runs counter to its own official foreign policy. Despite officially recognizing the Palestinian right to self-determination, Canada has consistently voted against the General Assembly’s annual resolution affirming Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Furthermore, although Canada does not recognize Israeli control over the occupied Palestinian territories, it continues to vote against UN resolutions condemning illegal Israeli “settlements.” In all, since 2011, Canada has either voted against or abstained on every resolution supporting the rights of Palestinians. It is well-known that the Harper government, while in power from 2006 to 2015, firmly embraced a pro-Israel position. Trudeau has sought to soften some of the rhetorical rough edges around Harper’s approach, but continues the UN voting pattern of his predecessor.
  • Action Taken by Canadian Allies. Canada find itself in a small minority with its voting record on Israel-Palestine, a group including Israel, the US and a handful of Pacific island nations beholden to the US. Canada’s Western European allies, however, have taken a more balanced approach rooted in international law. France, Germany, the UK, and other EU nations regularly vote in favor of resolutions on Palestinian human rights.

Recommendations for Canada

  • Canada should adjust its voting in the UN General Assembly so as to bring it in line with its own official policy on Israel-Palestine. It should begin by supporting resolutions which 1) condemn illegal Israeli “settlements,” 2) support the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied Palestinian territory, and 3) oppose the illegal annexation of Jerusalem.
  • Canadian leaders should work with allies within the UN to advance the Israel-Palestine peace process, rather than counter important resolutions.

 

[i] United Nations General Assembly. (2012). A/RES/67/19: Status of Palestine in the United Nations. Retrieved February 12, 2019 from http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/67/19

[ii] United Nations General Assembly. (2017). A/ES-10/L.22: Status of Jerusalem. Retrieved February 12, 2019 from https://undocs.org/A/ES-10/L.22

[iii] United Nations General Assembly. (2016). A/RES/71/247: Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from https://undocs.org/en/A/RES/71/247

[iv] United Nations General Assembly. (2016). A/RES/71/98: Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. Retrieved February 19, 2019 from http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/71/98

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