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August 19, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Helen: a Handbasket

Victoria students were given Helen back last week, as former Prime Minister Helen Clark went from the UNDP to MC103 to give a speech on international development.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator and former New Zealand Prime Minister was greeted by over 650 staff, students and invited guests at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs’ (NZIIA) Annual Foreign Policy Lecture held at Victoria last Monday.

Maclaurin lecture theatres were packed with guests hoping to see Clark in the flesh, with a video link to her presentation streamed to an overflow theatre.

In her speech, entitled ‘Conflict and Development: Breaking the Cycle of Fragility, Violence, and Poverty’, Clark spoke about the impact of conflict and armed violence on development and the importance of creating more peaceful environments “where development can thrive”.

“It will not be possible to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 or by any other date if a proportion of the world’s people continue to live in fear of war, conflict, and armed violence ripping their communities apart,” she said.

Clark was also critical of the short-term charity approach of many peacekeeping missions, instead arguing for the need to see development as a “long-term agenda”.

“Peacebuilding interventions provide short-term relief, but we must look at constructive solutions and the importance of building resilient institutions,” she said.

When asked about the role of women in armed conflict, Clark said she took the issue seriously. “We need to get women to the table—too many ceasefire agreements are handed out by the blokes doing the fighting.”

Clark was the Prime Minister of New Zealand for nine years before taking up the role of UNDP Administrator in 2009—a role where she oversees a $5 billion annual fund.

In his concluding speech, NZIIA President and former National MP Sir Douglas Kidd told Clark that her attendance was a “triumph” and that she had pulled a crowd of “more than anyone ever”.

“We all desperately want to be associated with your success,” he said.

NZIIA Director Peter Kennedy said Clark’s presentation was “stunning”, and before Clark, the Institute had never pulled a crowd of more than 150 people.

“It’s great to see so many students give consideration to serious international issues.”

One student Salient spoke to was more interested in seeing the former Prime Minister in action, than in the international issues the NZIIA was hoping to promote.

“I just really wanted an update on what she’s been up to—she is such an inspiration to young New Zealand women.”

After the presentation, attendees took the opportunity for selfies with the former Prime Minister as she promoted her new book At the UN: Addresses from Helen Clark’s first term leading the UNDP.

Salient spoke to Clark, who said she enjoyed speaking to such an active and engaged audience, and said she had enjoyed being back in the capital.

“But I wish the weather had been better.”

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