Helen Clark: More change in global poverty needed

From Nine To Noon, 9:07 am on 26 August 2015

Former Prime Minister, and current head of the United Nations Development Group, Helen Clark, says although global goals to reduce poverty have been met, many countries haven't seen enough change.

Helen Clark

Helen Clark in Radio New Zealand's newsroom in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The UN's Millennium Development Goals, which are now up for renewal, aimed to halve "extreme" poverty.

Ms Clark said while that target had been met, it was mostly down to the actions of single, large countries.

"It was met overwhelmingly because China lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and when China moves, that moves global figures and averages.

"So for many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, there hasn't been so much movement. There has been some downward movement, but not enough."

The UN is now a month away from setting new sustainable development goals for 2030.

Ms Clark said these would be more ambitious.

"They talk about going to zero by 2030. The World Bank qualified that recently by saying get to zero, minus 3 percent."

She said the previous goals took a while to catch on, but she was confident the next set would get off to a better start because of the huge public consultation process around them.

But she said aid in terms of money itself was just a drop in the ocean, and while the current figure for aid for the world was $135 billion, a UN estimated cost of putting these new goals in place is between $3.3 and $4.5 trillion a year.

"It's the petty cash, it can very helpful and catalytic in building the capacities in developing countries to develop themselves.

"The big action is going to come from a country being able to mobilise the money.

"It's taxes, it's quality loans, the investment it attracts."

She was also confident in the improvement of the very agency she runs, after reports of the UNDP being "dysfunctional and probably corrupt".

"For sure it was in need of a bit of a jolly-up shall we say.

"And by the way, we have so turned it round that last year, we were rated as the most transparent and accountable aid organisation in the world, well ahead of USAID, New Zealand Aid, Britain's aid effort, the World Bank. So we're pretty proud of what we're doing."

But the former Prime Minister would not comment on whether she was after another top job - this time the role of UN Secretary General.

"I've never expressed any ambition in this respect at all. It's a highly geo-political matter.

"I really haven't commented one way or the other."

She did admit to having an opinion on whether the New Zealand flag should change, but said that opinion was not going to be shared either.

Ms Clark is giving the Bishop Sir Paul Reeves Memorial Lecture, at 7:30 pm tonight, at the Sir Paul Reeves Building in AUT University, in Auckland.

Helen Clark spoke to Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon: