Image: Helen Clark / World Trade Organisation / Wikimedia Commons
Helen Clark is without a doubt one of my idols. I grew up at the end of her era in New Zealand politics – watching her resignation speech and listening to the talk about her legacy as a 13-year-old filled me with regret that I wouldn’t get to see what she did as Prime Minister.
But then, in many ways, I think I got luckier. As someone interested in pursuing politics and maybe one day a career at the UN, the fact that a woman like Helen from my little country of New Zealand flew the nest to helm the UNDP, rising like a phoenix from the disaster of that 2008 election reminds me everyday that there are always ways to do better, to become better.
The fact that she is running for Secretary General of the UN at a time when there are four other female candidates running for top-dog, and when a female US president may just become a reality simultaneously makes me realise how far we have to go to reach gender equality, and how far we have come.
To have a New Zealander as the Secretary General highlights an often forgotten fact that New Zealand is a small country with a rather large global reach. Many of us choose to leave either indefinitely or for the well-publicised ‘gap year’, and in the aftermath of a flag debate that went on for too long, it’s nice to finally have a discussion in New Zealand about what happens to those who choose to leave our shores and find success in other areas.
Being the Secretary General of the UN is known to be a thankless task, as it requires real diplomatic skill to be able to negotiate the often conflicting interests of the 193 member states and of course the P-5. But I have no doubt that Helen can do it; she is resilient, tough, intelligent and experienced. As a New Zealander I am proud that we have someone running for arguably the top diplomatic position in the world, and I’m proud that it is a former PM. I missed out on seeing her lead in New Zealand, and I’d like to see her lead on a global stage.
So here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in following the election:
- There are seven other candidates, mainly from Eastern Europe.
- PM John Key has endorsed Helen for the position
- For the first time in UN history, the General Assembly will have more say in the appointment, although the final decision will likely still be made by the Security Council. The process will kick off next week with member states, NGOs, businesses and individuals firing questions at the candidates for two hours.
- In addition, there will be two public forums in New York on the 13th of April and in London on the third of June.
- There has also been a website set up where you can read the candidates’ CVs and a 2,000-word essay detailing why they think they should become the next Secretary-General of the UN.
- Helen Clark has called on Kiwis to speak out on social media. You can follow @Helen4SG on twitter here.