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Former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark Could Soon Be the Boss of the UN

She celebrated the big news with a tweet: "Looking 4ward 2 the campaign."
April 5, 2016, 12:00am

Helen Clark in a 2012 visit to Senegal. Image via Flickr user United Nations Development Programme.

After months of speculation, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark today formally announced her bid to be the first female Secretary-General of The United Nations.

Clark, who currently holds office as the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, is a logical choice for the top spot, says New Zealand's former ambassador to the UN, Michael Powles.

"I think the 'old-boys club' UN has slowly melted away," he told VICE. "I think it's absolutely overdue, having a woman Secretary-General."


Powles specifies the role is no figurehead position, citing the major influence of the Secretary-General in global crises. Clark would be the key person to liaise with both the Security Council and peacekeeping forces.

"You're essentially the executive of a massive corporation, relating to development and war and peace. It's like being the leader of a medium-sized country, there is quite a lot of stake."

The UN has long been criticised for the futility of its structure when approaching conflict resolution. It's this bureaucratic sluggishness that Powles believes Clark would be best to "shake up." He claims she has already developed a reputation for doing so in her current position, which is ranked third most powerful in the organisation.

Helen Clark, who is New Zealand's fifth longest-standing Prime Minister, grew up on a farm and became involved with politics as a teenager. She was elected to the Labour seat of Mount Albert in 1981. In 1999 she led Labour to victory and became the second female Prime Minister of New Zealand, remaining in office until 2008.

As the eighth candidate to enter the running for Secretary General, Helen Clark's major obstacle will be winning the unanimous approval of the permanent five Security Council members, who have the power to veto any one candidate immediately.

Powles believes Clark's appointment would be instrumental in raising New Zealand's profile internationally. "The main advantage to New Zealand is the prestige it would give us. It would absolutely raise our status on the world stage."

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