5 Apr 2016

NZ nominates Clark for UN top job

11:10 am on 5 April 2016

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed the government is nominating former Prime Minister Helen Clark for the top job at the United Nations.

Mr Key this morning confirmed his former political opponent's candidacy, saying that having served as prime minister of New Zealand for nine years and at the UN for seven, Ms Clark had the right skills to be Secretary General.

"Coming from New Zealand, Helen is well placed to bridge divisions and indeed to get results," said Mr Key.

"There is no doubt it will be a highly contested position as it's a very important one, but I am confident Helen has what it takes and is the best person for the job."

Helen Clark.

Helen Clark is to run for UN Secretary General. Photo: RNZ/Kim Baker-Wilson

Ms Clark said she was "deeply honoured" to receive the nomination.

"The UN and our world are facing very serious challenges. I believe I have the skills to lead the UN as it tackles those major current and emerging political, security, development and humanitarian challenges."

Watch John Key's announcement:

At the UN this morning Ms Clark said she was committed to the ideals of the UN charter, and that at its best the Secretary General's job was about giving voice to seven billion people.

Ms Clark, the Labour Prime Minister from 1999 to 2008, is currently administrator of the UN Development Programme.

Ban Ki-moon ends his term as UN Secretary General in December, and eight candidates have now been declared.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at UN Disaster meeting in New York in November 2015.

Ban Ki-Moon's term ends in December. Photo: AFP

There has been a big push from the top levels of the UN for a woman to succeed Ban Ki-Moon.

The job has traditionally been shared around the regional groupings, with Eastern Europe being seen as next in line. New Zealand is in the "Western Europe and Others" grouping but Ms Clark has said she does not think that would be a disadvantage.

"It's wide open," said Ms Clark on a visit to New Zealand last month. "The member states are very conscious that we live in extremely challenging times."

Former diplomat Michael Powles, New Zealand's permanent representative to the UN from 1996 to 2001, said Ms Clark was extremely qualified for the job.

"She is highly admired internationally and on the UN scene. I don't think that any one would doubt that she would be regarded as I think the best qualified person for it," he told Nine to Noon.

But he said popularity was not all that mattered.

"There is a strong belief that the east Europeans are entitled to it. It is not written down anywhere, in any formal way, but it does mean that a good east European candidate might have a good show for it."

But Mr Key believed one of Helen Clark's advantages was that she came from a relatively neutral position, so was unlikely to attract a veto from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

"There has certainly been enough talk around it could be Eastern Europe's chance, but for it to be Eastern Europe's chance there has got to be a candidate that they're prepared to coalesce around.

"And in the end, as we've seen so often in the past, you get a situation where candidates are knocked out by one of the P5 members and ultimately there's a candidate comes through.

"There's a very real chance I think that Helen could fill that gap."

Current director general of UNESCO Bulgarian Irina Bokova is strongly rumoured to be interested in the job, he said.

The General Assembly will hold what it calls "informal discussions" with declared candidates from 12-14 April and the Security Council will begin seriously considering the candidates in July.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said Helen Clark had an "amazing reputation and would be a "great asset for the UN."

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