13 Jul 2016

Clark points to UN shortcomings in debate

6:26 pm on 13 July 2016

Helen Clark has spelled out why she believes she should be the next Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) in a very public job interview.

Helen Clark taking part in a televised debate with other candidates for the job of to be UN Secretary-General.

Helen Clark during a televised debate in New York as part of her campaign to be the next Secretary-General of the UN. Photo: Screenshot / UN webcast

Ten of the candidates vying for the top position at the UN took part in a televised debate in New York today that was broadcast throughout the world.

New Zealand's former prime minister and head of the United Nations Development Programme said in the debate that there were many challenges facing the UN - spanning development, environment, humanitarian needs and human rights.

But she said it was peace and security where the UN came up short.

"We have to get better at preventing conflict and resolving conflict. I believe the long-term answers lie in building the peaceful and inclusive societies which will talk their differences out and not fight them out," Miss Clark said.

"But in the short-term we have to get a lot better at anticipating those warning signs of what could spill over into serious human rights abuses and conflict."

The candidates were asked about the problems with the UN Security Council, whose five permanent members wield a veto, and the power imbalance between nations that this creates.

Miss Clark was asked what could be done to make the Security Council more just and egalitarian.

"We have a council which reflects 1945, the end of WWII settlement - 10 years ago, the member states had a good go at trying to reform it - it didn't get to conclusions.

"The debate is raging again. If there is anything I can do as Secretary General to facilitate that debate, have the organisation offer technical options, legal advice, I will do that."

Miss Clark said she also liked to believe she could build a better culture of trust between the five permanent members.

Rivals' views

Another leading candidate, Costa Rica's Christiana Figueres, was asked about a lack of Security Council progress in dealing with the conflict in Syria, and what she would do about it.

Five candidates for  UN Secretary-General including Helen Clark, at right, during a live televised debate.

Five candidates for UN Secretary-General including Helen Clark, at right, during the live televised debate. Photo: Screenshot / UN webcast

"Well I do think that it is a remarkable example of deadlock in the Security Council," Ms Figueres said.

"And if there's any reform that is very urgent, in fact even more urgent than restructuring the Security Council, it's reforming the way that the five members work with each other, so that they can get out of deadlock because that is their responsibility."

Bulgaria's Irina Bokova was asked about the long-running dispute between Palestine and Israel and the lack of any resolutions coming from the Security Council to address it.

"I think the first of the responsibilities of a future Secretary General will be to start rebuilding trust between the negotiating parties," she said.

"I think this is extremely important, if we don't have trust I think this will continue to be one of those protracted crises."

The successful candidate will replace Ban Ki-moon who has been Secretary General since 2007.

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