Key poised to throw weight behind Helen Clark for top UN job

Helen Clark - ready for UN"s biggest job

Lawrence Smith

Helen Clark – ready for UN”s biggest job

Helen Clark is poised to confirm her bid for the United Nations’ top job with John Key’s blessing.

Key is expected to announce on Tuesday that New Zealand will nominate Clark for the position of United Nations Secretary General, which becomes vacant with the retirement of Ban Ki-Moon later this year.

Clark, who is back in New York after a trip to New Zealand last week to see her sick father, is expected to formally show her hand at about the same time.

John Key usually pops in on Clark when in New York

John Key usually pops in on Clark when in New York

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.

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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.

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.

​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.

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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 succeeded.

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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