Ex-New Zealand PM Helen Clark in the race for UN head

April 7, 2016 by Keren Cook
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New Zealand’s former prime minister Helen Clark has announced she is planning to run for the position of next UN secretary-general.This would make Clark the first woman to lead the world body, a decade after leading a diplomatic spat with Israel.

Helen Clark

Helen Clark

Helen Clark, well-known for cutting relations with Israel over the 2004 passport spat, and called ‘pragmatic and effective’ by  New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

“I am putting myself forward based on proven leadership experience over close to three decades, both in my own country and here at the United Nations,” Clark told AFT in an interview.

“I do think I have the experience and the attributes to do this job,” says Clark.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key supported Clark as the country’s candidate formally putting her forward as the country’s candidate at a press conference in Wellington on Monday.

“Having served as the prime minister of New Zealand for nine years and held one of the top jobs in the United Nations for the past seven, Helen Clark has the right mix of skills and experience for the job,” Key said.

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

2004 marked a tense time for New Zealand-Israel relations after Clark imposed diplomatic sanctions on Israel. New Zealand convicted 2 Israeli’s of attempting to illegally obtain New Zealand passports through ties with organized criminal gangs.

Clark claimed she had evidence that the  2 Israeli’s were tied to the Mossad, and called the attempt a violation of New Zealand sovereignty by the Israeli Government.

The Israelis, Uriel Zosha Kelman and Eli Cara, admitted to the charges but said they were not working for the Mossad. The 2 men were sentenced to 6 months in prison and Clark demanded an apology and an explanation from the Israeli Government.

Clark is currently the administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), considered the third-highest post in the world body.

In 2014, she visited Israel as part of her role with the UNDP and endorsed Israel’s ingenuity during a visit to the Israeli International Development conference.

Clark said she was “just blown away” by what she saw, and was “really inspired by what the young innovators had to say.”

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, will finish his tenure at the end of 2016, and coincides at a time of real anxiety in global affairs as the United Nations recognises we face the largest refugee crisis since World War II and the intense conflicts seen in the Middle East and Africa.

The new role will see 3 other women vying for the top job: Additional female candidates include UNESCO chief Irina Bokova of Bulgaria and the former High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, of Portugal.

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