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The Globe and Mail

Canada leads calls for development funding in bid to boost UN Security Council chances

Canada's UN Ambassador, Marc-André Blanchard is shown in New York City in this 2016 file photo.

Michael Falco/The Globe and Mail

Canada is working to boost its chances of winning a United Nations Security Council seat by leading an effort aimed at unlocking more private-sector financing to help fill an annual $7-trillion development-funding gap between now and 2030.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail, Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Marc-André Blanchard said he and his Jamaican counterpart Courtenay Rattray are heading up a group of 60 countries focused on obtaining more private-sector capital, through channels such as pension, private equity and insurance funds, to help meet the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs call on countries to adopt 17 sustainable-development goals focused on ending poverty, fighting inequality and tackling climate change over the next 13 years.

"If you believe in the Agenda 2030, we need to scale-up financing rapidly and it is obvious that you cannot do that without the private sector," Mr. Blanchard said.

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"If we think we can continue to do this the same way – to do development the way we've been doing for the last 50 years – we won't get there."

Mr. Blanchard said innovative SDG financing is his top priority as ambassador and a key part of Canada's pitch for one of the 10 rotating, non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council for 2021-22.

"It's a demonstration that Canada can make things happen, like very few other countries. As part of the campaign, this is a proof point of what we can be doing," he said.

Mr. Blanchard said the Group of Friends of SDG Financing is discussing what countries can do to ensure that private-sector investments help achieve the sustainable-development goals. For instance, he pointed to Africa, where he said traditional development assistance from governments is important, but isn't enough to meet the needs of some countries, places where 70 per cent of the population is under the age of 30. He said that urgency to create opportunities for young people is something the private-sector – particularly in Canada – should capitalize on.

"What is the antidote to the youth bulge? It's opportunities for young people. How do you create opportunities for young people? It's with access to energy, infrastructure, health care, education, financial services – all things that Canada is one of the world leaders in," Mr. Blanchard said.

While there is some interest from the private sector in aligning investments with the SDGs, Mr. Blanchard said there are also concerns about regulatory gaps, the rule of law and corruption in some countries. He said the West, including Canada, tends to "overestimate risk and underestimate the opportunities in emerging markets."

"We need to really revisit this issue of how we assess risk and what is a risk. We also need to better inform our business community and our society about the opportunities."

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More specifically, Mr. Blanchard has his eyes set on pension, private equity and insurance funds, which together hold more than $80-trillion in assets, or 10 times more than what's needed each year to implement the SDGs by 2030.

In addition to private-sector financing, the Group of Friends will seek new sources of public and philanthropic funding for the SDG goals.

Mr. Blanchard, a high-powered lawyer from Quebec and long-time Liberal, is leading Canada's campaign for a Security Council seat. He said he has cemented a number of countries' support for Canada's 2021-22 bid, but could not provide specifics since the election is done by secret ballot.

Canada hasn't held a seat on the UN's most powerful branch since 2000. The previous Conservative government withdrew Canada's candidacy for a seat in 2010 when it became clear it would lose to Portugal.

Mr. Blanchard also spoke candidly about his relationship with the U.S. ambassador to the UN, and former Republican governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley.

"We are close friends. From a professional point of view, she's been a very effective ambassador to the United Nations. She is widely respected," Mr. Blanchard said.

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"We obviously do not agree on everything, but we have an excellent working relationship."

Mr. Blanchard said he and Ms. Haley share an interest in management, peace operations and development reform at the UN. He said they recently worked together to "one by one" rally two-thirds of the world's countries to attend an event on those subjects, presided over by U.S. President Donald Trump, during the UN General Assembly in September.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined a path to reconciliation between Ottawa and Indigenous peoples, and reiterated Canada's commitment to combating climate change.
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