Helen Clark makes bid for UN top job

Helen Clark addressing the United Nations
Helen Clark addressing the United Nations

Former New Zealand Prime Minister and Labour leader Helen Clark has made her case for the top job at the United Nations, claiming she can unify and modernise the organisation.

Ms Clark appeared before UN delegates this morning to state why she believed she should be the next Secretary-General when Ban Ki-moon steps down at the end of the year after five years in the role.

"I believe the UN needs a proven leader who is pragmatic and effective, and I think I've shown those qualities during nine years as a Prime Minister, and seven years as an administrator [at the UN Development Programme].

"Coming from New Zealand shapes who I am and what I have to offer. I come from a highly culturally diverse country in a region of great diversity. I am acutely aware that what the UN does or doesn't do affects the everyday lives of countless millions of people."

At the closing of her speech, Ms Clark was grilled by the other delegates on a string of issues including Europe's migration crisis and how best to overhaul the UN Security Council.

Helen Clark makes bid for UN top job

Claiming that she takes a "holistic" approach, Ms Clark urged the UN needed greater unity and to be able to tackle heavy issues head-on.

She also reiterated her UN experience, saying under her watch the UN would take a developmental approach when confronting issues of terrorism and human rights.

Ms Clark was also not shy in criticising the UN when asked whether she thought the organisation was losing credibility through slow response times to global issues.

"The UN has tremendous convening power, and we see that at any major event here -- the leaders come, the senior ministers come, but I think in the court of public opinion, it could be seen to act more decisively, and that includes on reputational risk issues.

"That includes issues like the sexual abuse [and] gender-based violence from -- fortunately -- a small minority of peacekeepers, but it should never happen. These issues have to be dealt quickly and decisively."

When it came to the discussion of conflict, she said the UN needed to increase communication with the organisation's teams on the ground. She also said the drivers of conflict can be addressed through long-term investment in economic and social development, and peaceful and inclusive societies.

"As there is a sense of impending crisis, I would like the UN Secretary-General to maintain very, very close contact with our teams on the ground, who know what's going on but don't always get heard as well as they could, because the earlier we sense issues, the earlier there can be some outreach, some attempt to engage, some attempt to see if there's a way through what might be happening."

Ms Clark announced her bid for the Secretary-General position earlier this month.

If she is elected for the position, she will become the first ever female leader of the international organisation.