By J Nastranis
NEW YORK (IDN) - Helen Clark, New Zealand’s first woman Prime Minister from1999 to 2008 and current Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2009, is convinced that she is “up to the task” of leading the United Nations when Ban Ki-moon’s term expires at the end of the year.
Helen Clark threw down the gauntlet to three women and four male candidates for the post of the UN Secretary-General on April 4. The woman candidates are: UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria; Vesna Pusic, former Foreign Minister of Croatia, and Natalia Gherman, former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Moldova. The male candidates are: Srgian Kerim of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Igor Luksic of Montenegro; Danilo Turk of Slovenia, and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who also served as the Portuguese Prime Minister.
Knowledgeable sources were far from surprised when the New Zealand Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen asked journalists to a press conference at the New Zealand mission in New York on April 4.
A short time earlier, the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced in Wellington that his government was putting forward Helen Clark for the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations. Ambassador van Bohemen said: “The Prime Minister’s letter of nomination has just been sent to the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council.”
Reiterating the key messages from the New Zealand Prime Minister, Ambassador van Bohemen said: “These are that the world and the United Nations are facing significant challenges. The United Nations needs a proven leader who is pragmatic and effective. It’s time for the United Nations to elect the best person for the job. That person is Helen Clark.”
Laying claim to the post of the UN Secretary-General, she told reporters: “New Zealand is a Pacific nation of great diversity, situated in a region of great diversity. New Zealanders have developed over time, our own way of getting along with each other and getting things done. The tradition of being tolerant, pragmatic and fair is part of who we are.”
She added: “I’m running for Secretary-General because I believe that with this background, I can offer the style of leadership which is needed today. And which will help the United Nations meet the very serious challenges which lie ahead.
“As one of the longest serving Prime Ministers of New Zealand, and now having been Leader of UNDP and Chair of the UN Development Group these past seven years, I believe I am the right person for the job.
“New Zealand as this Pacific nation has a proud history of support for the United Nations, right from the very beginning of the drafting of the Charter. We need a UN which is up to the task of tackling the major challenges facing our world today and I believe I am the leader that is up to the task of leading the organisation. I want to do it because I am deeply committed to the ideals of the UN Charter and have supported it my whole adult life.”
At its best, the position of UN Secretary-General is about giving a voice for the world’s seven billion plus people who look to the UN for hope and support and inspiration, Clark said, adding that she intends to run “an accessible campaign”. She said she looks forward to engaging with the General Assembly April 10-12 when all candidates – including four male aspirants for the post of UN Chief – would engage with the broader public in the weeks ahead.
“I will obviously be talking in more detail about the vision that I have for the organisation and my priorities in the coming period which I anticipate will be for quite some months,” she added.
Answering a question during the press conference, Clark said she was leaving at midnight for Egypt to “honour a commitment to go to Cairo and speak at a major Arab League and Government of Egypt hosted meeting on the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Among the eight journalists who asked questions was Bingxin Li from People's Daily in China, who stated: “I know that you reiterated that you’re qualified to be the next leader of the UN. If you were elected, how do you push forward the Security Council reform?”
Helen Clark: “The Security Council reform lies in the hands of Member States. The role of the Secretariat is to respond with whatever technical information, possibly offer ways of dealing with it, but Member States in the end will decide the composition. When I was Prime Minister of my country, there was a point at which this was a very live issue and obviously I worked with my ministers on what contribution my own country might make to that debate. I hope the debate will fire up again because in principle it’s desirable for the Security Council to reflect the geopolitical realities of the 21st Century and not of 1945. Things have moved on.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 4 April 2016]
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Photo: Helen Clark | New Zealand Permanent Mission to the UN