Former New Zealand premier Helen Clark to run for UN secretary-general

Clark seen as a strong contender in what has traditionally been a male dominated role

Former New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark looking on during a forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at the OECD headquarter in Paris, France. Ms Clark, the current administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will run for the position of UN secretary-general in the 2016 election. Photograph: Caroline Blumberg/EPA

Former New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark looking on during a forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at the OECD headquarter in Paris, France. Ms Clark, the current administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will run for the position of UN secretary-general in the 2016 election. Photograph: Caroline Blumberg/EPA

 

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark will run for secretary-general of the United Nations, the world’s top diplomatic post.

Ms Clark, (66), was nominated by current New Zealand prime minister John Key to replace Ban Ki-moon when he steps down at the end of 2016. Mr Key described Ms Clarke as having the “right mix of skills and experience for the job.”

“There are major global challenges facing the world today and the United Nations needs a proven leader who can be pragmatic and effective,” said Mr Key. “Coming from New Zealand, Helen Clark is well placed to bridge divisions and get results.”

Ms Clark, currently head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), is the fourth woman out of eight candidates to be nominated for the role, which will be decided under a new process aimed at introducing greater transparency.

The applicants will hold informal meetings with the UN’s 193 nations, and the 15-member Security Council will then recommend a candidate to be approved by the General Assembly.

Ms Clark’s bid comes amid a global campaign to have a woman elected to the job. The secretary-general position has been an exclusively male bastion since the UN was created in the aftermath of second World War.The first woman to become prime minister of New Zealand in a general election, Ms Clark served three consecutive terms from 1999 to 2008, when she was beaten by Mr Key.

A political studies professor, Ms Clark went on to become the first woman to lead the UNDP, which administers the global body’s poverty eradication programme.”I know how to build consensus on issues,” Ms Clark said at a press conference in New York.

“The UN has many tools in its tool kit and they all have to be utilised for a more peaceful and inclusive society.”

Ms Clark faces a tough race. It is widely viewed as Eastern Europe’s turn to fill the secretary-general’s chair under an unofficial system of job rotation among geographical regions, said John Langmore, assistant director of research at the University of Melbourne’s School of Government and a former director of the UN’s division for social policy and development.

”Helen Clark is a stronger potential candidate than anyone from this area ever before, but the sentiment in favour of a secretary-general from Eastern Europe is very strong,” Mr Langmore said in an interview before Clark announced her candidacy.

“The only way I can think of is that Russia says it doesn’t like any of the Eastern European candidates.”

Other female candidates that have been put forward are Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, former Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic and Natalia Gherman, former foreign minister of Moldova. The other four candidates are former Macedonian foreign minister Srgjan Kerim, foreign minister of Montenegro Igor Luksic, former Slovenian President Danilo Turk and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who is Portuguese.

The UN Security Council, which includes the permanent five members of China, France, Russia, the UK and the US, will start discussions over candidates in July. New Zealand is currently a non-permanent member of the council.