Canada should rejoin the United Nations Industrial Development Organization

The number of people fleeing war and poverty in search of a better life in Europe has fallen dramatically in the past two years. In fact, it's back to levels not seen since 2014. But since that time Europe has seen almost two million people move in amongst them, trying if possible to stay, and determined not to return to the places they fled. The fact that numbers are down does not herald an end to the migration crisis. Far from it. In multiple regions it's just beginning to ramp up. Attitudes in the West are hardening against accepting and accommodating those looking for a better life. Time for solutions is short.We should begin with what we know. The immediate cause of this historic migration is war. It's why the vast majority of migrants have come from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. End the wars, and you end the primary incentive to leave. But there is far more needed than that.War brings poverty. It destroys economies and obliterates social justice. It breeds corruption, elevating a very few to power and wealth while removing hope from everyone else. Just because the shooting is over doesn't suddenly make a former war zone an appealing home.War is not a pre-requisite for a failed state. The theft of hope and the embrace of corruption happens in even the most peaceful of nations. All that's required is the iron grip of fear and poverty.Hope can be restored through economic development. A sustainable and growing economy creates the bedrock for a strong and stable society. That society can function not only in the best interests of its people but can contribute to the greater progress of the world.The challenge is how do we get there.The international community had an answer to that more than fifty years ago when the nations of the world created UNIDO, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Its mission is simple but daunting; to promote and accelerate inclusive and sustainable industrial development in the poorest nations of the planet.Canada thought it was a good idea and the Mulroney government joined in 1985. Less than a decade later, under a different government facing budget cuts, Canada let its membership lapse. Others followed Canada in subsequent years as western foreign aid budgets were slashed and multilateralism felt the first winds of opposition.That forced UNIDO to take a close look at its practices, its effectiveness, and because of the loss of financial support, its budgets. Reforms were made. Field presence was ramped up significantly to put the Organization on the ground where the projects were happening. Financial co-operation was streamlined and decision making made faster. Personnel was slashed by 50%, putting more money directly in the hands of the project leads. Overlap with other UN agencies was virtually eliminated.Today there are 168 member nations of UNIDO, but the times demand even greater effort and wider engagement. In spite of the substantial progress that has been made over the past fifty years, the scars of poverty and the hopelessness of failed economies are still evident, and in a globalized world it's affecting us all.In addition to being the catalyst for mass human migration, poverty and corruption create the breeding ground for environmental disaster, that has consequences for everyone, Toxic chemicals released into the air or water don't stay within the boundaries of the nation. They roam the globe.Poverty also brings corruption and injustice. Women and girls carry a disproportionate burden of work without the reward of income, and they sustain the family largely without the benefit of help. It consigns them to a life of servitude.Foreign development budgets aren't getting any bigger in western nations and the problems aren't getting any smaller in the developing world. It would seem a simple calculation that combining the money and efforts, at least to some degree, could have an enormous impact beyond what individual nations can do on their own. And yet, that is becoming more complicated with the rise of a mistrust, and even in some parts, a rejection of multilateralism.When Justin Trudeau made his first speech to the United Nations in 2016, he said, “Canada is a modest country. We know we can't solve these problems alone. We know we need to do this all together. We know it will be hard work. But we're Canadian. And we're here to help.”It was a rare moment and raised the hopes that a new champion of multilateralism had arrived on the world stage. Canada was an obvious country from which that message should be issued. Canadians were instrumental in the founding of the UN and had distinguished themselves often on the world stage. As a federation, Canada understood better than most countries the benefits and the challenges of shared visions and joint effort.Canadians get it. According to a recent Environics poll, 88% of Canadians said they believe that support for the United Nations was important with a majority saying it was critically important.Now, as Canada launches its bid for a seat on the Security Council, all eyes are on not only its words but its actions. Like Canada, UNIDO believes that we can't solve problems alone, that we need to do this all together. Rejoining UNIDO would be a good place to start.Dr. Kai BethkeDirector, External RelationsUNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization.