Relocating Middle Powers: Australia and Canada in a Changing World Order

By Andrew F. Cooper; Richard A. Higgott et al. | Go to book overview

Although Canadian representatives took a variety of initiatives during the Rio negotiations, leading to a perception of an 'active and constructive role,' 84 the Canadian government did not pursue them in a bold way, self-consciously avoiding the mediatory role of helpful fixer that it had played, for example, at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. At the Stockholm conference, Canadian diplomats had produced a compromise solution to the issue of compensation for losses in trade suffered as a result of the establishment of higher environmental standards. 85 At Rio, by contrast, such a brokerage function was left to other countries.

To note that Canada's environmental diplomacy at Rio lacked some of the boldness that it had at Stockholm is not, however, to suggest that there was a fundamental change in the overall style of Canadian diplomacy in the environmental issue area. 86 At Rio, Canadian statecraft continued to demonstrate a traditional concern for consensus and a historical orientation that sought safety in numbers. Coalition diplomacy was no less important either: Canadian efforts to secure a convention on high seas fishing depended on working through the so-called CANZ group ( Canada-Australia-New Zealand). Likewise, at Rio no less than at Stockholm, Canadians placed an emphasis on detailed technical legal statecraft in the negotiation of the Rio Declaration.

However, while these national differences are significant, one should not overlook the considerable commonalities displayed by Australia and Canada on the issues in which they took a lead. While there are clear variations in style, the leadership process in all of the case studies shows remarkable similarities in pattern. Australia and Canada, like many other middle powers, may pursue their own specific foreign policy objectives, but in attempting to be initiators or leaders, the type and content of leadership roles unites rather than divides them. While Australia had a historical reputation for 'over-zealous' diplomacy, Canberra increasingly developed a sophisticated, agenda-based, results-oriented foreign policy as the stakes of success or failure became more apparent. Likewise, Canada was no longer the quintessential middle power it was often seen to be in the so-called 'golden age' of the 1950s and 1960s; it certainly was not the 'principal power' to which some tried to elevate it in the 1980s. 87 However, Ottawa's contribution to the processes of international cooperation was still substantial.


Conclusions

The typology of middle power leadership developed in Chapter 1

-170-

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