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Canadian UN ambassador speaks on role of the United Nations, reform

The changing role of the United Nations (UN) was the topic of a speech by Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations Guillermo Rishchynski on Jan. 23.

A McGill graduate, Rishchynski served as a trade commissioner in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development as an ambassador to Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico before becoming the representative of Canada to the United Nations in 2011.

Rishchynski’s address responded to commonly held criticisms of the UN at the opening ceremony of McGill’s 25th Model United Nations (McMUN) conference.

“The reality is that the United Nations is a consensus organization,” Rishchynski said. “It’s an indispensable institution that seeks to do the best that it can—the best humanity can—to address humanity’s problems.”

The ambassador also discussed potential reform of the UN.

“The United Nations has remained static, in my personal judgment, for far too long,” Rishchynski said. “It needs to reform. It takes catharsis at times to get the UN to change itself.”

According to Rishchynski, the UN needs to adapt due to factors such as urbanization, technology, changing demographics, and a shift in the nature of conflicts from erupting between states to within states.

He also commented on shifts in the dynamics of international relations.

“We are seeing a total rebalancing of political and economic power taking place as it shifts from the west to east toward Asia, which will be the nexus of power over the course of the next 50 to 100 years,” Rishchynski said.

He emphasized the importance of the role Canada plays in the UN, explaining that the country’s financial contributions to the UN’s budget—$75 million per year— make it the eighth largest contributor in the world.

“For Canada, it’s important that, as a founding member of the UN, we try to play as active a role as we can to protect and promote our values and advance our interests in the context of consensus,” Rishchynski said. “What are those Canadian values that we seek to promote? Freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.”

Rishchynski’s speech was addressed to the delegates at the opening ceremony for McMUN 2014, which was attended by over 1,400 delegates from universities around the world. Henry Duventhal, a delegate from Alfred University in New York, was one of the attendees.

“[Rishchynski’s speech] was really easy to get behind,” Duventhal said. “It really reinforced what I knew about the UN and what Canada’s role in it is.”

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