Government backs Helen Clark for top UN job

MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

John Key announces that the Government will nominate Helen Clark for the UN top job

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed the Government will nominate Helen Clark for the United Nations top job as secretary general.

In a statement, Key said Clark’s experience as prime minister for nine years and head of the United Nations Development Programme for the last seven years gave her the right mix of skills and experience for the job.

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Helen Clark says she is 'deeply honoured' to receive the Government's nomination for the role of UN secretary general.

BRENDAN MCDERMID

Helen Clark says she is ‘deeply honoured’ to receive the Government’s nomination for the role of UN secretary general.

“There are major global challenges facing the world today and the United Nations needs a proven leader who can be pragmatic and effective.

“Coming from New Zealand Helen Clark is well placed to bridge divisions and get results. She is the best person for the job.”

Key said he had submitted New Zealand’s nomination letter to the Presidents of the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council.

John Key usually pops in on Clark when in New York

John Key usually pops in on Clark when in New York

Clark said in a statement she was deeply honoured to receive the Government’s nomination.

“To receive the full backing of the New Zealand Government is a great honour. New Zealand has a proud history of supporting the UN from its very beginning.

“We New Zealanders have developed our own way of getting along with one another and getting things done. The tradition of being tolerant, pragmatic and fair is a central part of who we are and I believe I would bring these attributes to the position of Secretary General.”

Key said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade would now work with Clark on her campaign.

He confirmed a cost to New Zealand of hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of the bid, including MFAT staff seconded to her campaign, and any travel costs.

“The costs will be a bit more if she gets all the way to the finishing line.”

The Government’s backing ensures a concerted diplomatic campaign will be thrown behind Clark’s bid, and Key has made it clear he will use his access to world leaders to lobby on her behalf at every opportunity.

It will likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, as it did when New Zealand lobbied on behalf of former National MP Don McKinnon as Commonwealth Secretary General, and former Labour prime minister Mike Moore as World Trade Organisation boss.

As head of the UN development programme Clark is already the third most powerful person at the UN.  But she has increasingly been linked to the top job, in part because of her work at the UNDP, and also because of a push to install the UN’s first female boss.

Tough competition

But there is stiff competition, with Clark expected to join a crowded field that hosts a number of women candidates including the current director general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.

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​There has also been speculation about a rival closer to home – former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd is said to be lobbying intensely in New York as well.

​The biggest obstacle to Clark getting the job may be UN politics, with a number of countries already stating their support for the view that it is Eastern Europe’s “turn” to hold the job.

But there has been talk among UN observers, including Rudd, that Clark could emerge the “compromise” candidate if the large number of Eastern European candidates cancel each other out.

Winning the job would move Clark up the power ranks – Ban Ki-Moon, who is paid about $US227,000, appears at number 40 on the Forbes magazine power list. 

There would also be huge prestige for New Zealand if Clark won.

But Government insiders acknowledge it will be a tough campaign, and there are no guarantees despite Clark’s reputation in New York.

Clark has been biding her time before confirming a bid to gauge her chances of success.

But she may not be able to count on some traditional allies, including Australia, which would be obliged to back Rudd if he also throws his hat in the ring.

Key was non-committal on Monday when asked about Clark making a bid but made it clear he would throw everything at the campaign if she put her hand up.

“I’ll do everything I can to get her over the line”.

He believed New Zealanders would be hugely proud if she succeeded.

“If Helen became the next secretary general of the UN New Zealanders would celebrate in the same way they celebrate Lorde for her singing and Lydia Ko in golf.”

The fact that they used to be political opponents was irrelevant, meanwhile.

“Most people would say she was a very strong prime minister for nine years and she’s done a great job in the last seven years at UNDP.”

 

 – Stuff

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