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On April 5, Prime Minister John Key officially nominated former Prime Minister Helen Clark to become a candidate for the role of United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG). Clark is currently Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In Clark’s official press release announcing the nomination, she called it a “great honour” to have the “full backing of the New Zealand Government.”
The selection for the new UNSG will take place in December when the current UNSG, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, retires after serving two terms in the position.
Key called Clark an “immensely credible candidate,” and said it “was about time” there was a female UNSG, as there has not been one in the 70 year history of the role. Key also said Clark would be perhaps the “strongest Secretary-General they have ever had.”
Clark stated in her press release that being “tolerant, pragmatic, and fair,” are key elements of being a New Zealander, and that she would bring these skills with her to lead the UN. Clark also said she is “deeply committed to the ideas of the UN Charter,” and wants to give “a voice to seven billion people.”
Clark has bipartisan support from National, Labour and the Greens. Current Labour Leader Andrew Little has called her a “trailblazer.”
Clark also has support in Australia from former Prime Minister and onion-enthusiast Tony Abbott. The Australian Government would most likely also support Clark if Kevin Rudd does not want to run.
There are currently seven declared candidates, three of whom are women. Front-runner for the role is UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director-General, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria.
Six of the seven candidates are from Eastern Europe, so Clark’s candidacy would diversify the pool of nominees to include someone from the Asia-Pacific region.
Clark is seen as somewhat of a compromise candidate, as the election of the UNSG can be vetoed by one of the permanent five members of the UN security council (US, China, France, Russia, UK). It is highly likely that the US, the UK, and France would veto the selection of a candidate from Eastern Europe, as they would not want an Eastern-European UNSG that is pro-Russia, after the international fallout over the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
As the third highest ranking official in the UN, Clark will be a serious contest for Bokova going into the deliberation process in July.