Canada faces a tight race for a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council but the country's response to the coronavirus outbreak could help win support, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on Monday.
Canada, Ireland and Norway are vying for two seats that open up in 2021-2022. Each of the 193 UN member countries will cast a vote to decide which two countries will occupy the seats on the council, which is where decisions on issues such as sanctions and military action are taken.
Failure to win would be embarrassing for Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who came to power in 2015 promising "Canada is back" after nine years of a Conservative administration that was often suspicious of the world body.
"The race is tight," Champagne said by phone from New York.
Voting starts on June 17 and diplomatic sources say Canada's bid has been harmed by a late start, a sometimes fitful approach to campaigning, and the fact Ottawa spends much less of its gross domestic product on foreign aid than its rivals.
But Champagne said he had seen support for the bid pick up speed since the start of the coronavirus crisis, which he noted had drawn attention to progressive Canadian priorities such as fighting inequality and empowering women.
Champagne has arranged nine calls with counterparts from other nations hit by the outbreak and last month helped preside over a U.N. meeting on sustainable development.
"Our fingerprints are all over some of the biggest initiatives at the U.N.... in times of crisis people turn to countries which have a track record, like Canada, of building momentum," he said, adding that Canadian membership in the Group of Seven and other major international bodies would help.
"People want to be heard and they are looking at a country that can amplify their voice," he said.
Separately, Ottawa announced the armed forces would help transport medical and humanitarian supplies on behalf of the World Food Program and the World Health Organization.