The Small Island Vote

With climate change taking on increasing importance, including global security implications, small island states are likewise increasing their importance in the international community.

During his address to the General Assembly last week, Granadan Prime Minister Tillman Thomas called for a seat on the Security Council reserved for small island states “as soon as possible.”

Small island developing states represent over a quarter of votes in the UN General Assembly and thus are an important constituency for candidates for the Security Council. Australia, which is seeking a seat in 2013, has already been campaigning for support among Pacific island states since last year. This year, they would represent a significant coup for either Germany, Portugal or Canada, which are competing for two open seats on the UN Security Council.

Two days prior to Prime Minister Thomas’ address, German foreign minister Guide Westerwell affirmed his government’s continuing support for small island states’ concerns on climate change.

The German government already helps “those who are suffering the most from climate change,” said Westerwelle.

“The fate of, above all, the small island states is in our hearts,” he said, having held bilateral talks with a number of smaller states including the Marshall Islands – a tiny group of islands in the Pacific – during his five-day visit to New York.

Canada reportedly secured the Pacific Islands bloc’s votes last year, thanks to help from regional allies Australia and New Zealand, but Prime Minister Harper is still making the rounds in New York.  The Caribbean Community however seems to be firmly in Canada’s column.

Evadne Coye, the ambassador of Jamaica to Canada and the dean of the Caribbean Community group of ambassadors, told Embassy CARICOM will vote as a bloc for Canada. The 15-nation bloc took the decision when their foreign ministers met in March [2009].

This support, which she said was rooted in Canada’s historic links to the region and its track record of listening to CARICOM’s concerns, was “almost a foregone conclusion.”

“We are all on board,” Ms. Coye said enthusiastically. “[We’re] solid supporters for Canada’s election to the Security Council.”

These votes will be crucial for Germany and Canada to beat out Portugal, which is hoping that outreach on its behalf by Portugese-speaking Brazil, Angola and Mozambique will secure enough Latin American and African votes, and its role in supporting East Timor’s independence during its last term on the Council, to win a seat.

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About Tony Fleming

Tony is a communications and advocacy professional with over 15 years experience in United Nations reform advocacy. He began blogging about multilateral elections in 2006 at UNSG.org. He and his wife currently live in Panajachel, Guatemala. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.