Harper defends UN desert convention pull out, says it is too bureaucratic

OTTAWA – The Harper government says it is pulling out of a United Nations convention that fights droughts in Africa and elsewhere because it is too bureaucratic.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says less than one-fifth of the $350,000 Canada contributes to the convention goes to programming.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, in those Countries Experiencing Severe Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa, is a “talkfest.”

The decision would make Canada the only country in the world outside the agreement, which Ottawa ratified in 1995, and whose participants include 194 countries and the European Union — the entire UN.

The opposition NDP accused the government of turning its back on Africa, and of diminishing Canada’s international standing.

The Harper government has repeatedly raised questions about UN institutions, and has been a vocal critic of the inaction of the Security Council, particularly in dealing with Syria.

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