28 Mar 2009

Clark to head UN agency

7:32 am on 28 March 2009

Former prime minister Helen Clark has been officially nominated to become the head of the United Nations' Development Programme.

Announcing the appointment early on Friday in New York, UN spokesperson Michele Montas said member nations have already been consulted and the General Assembly is expected to approve it.

The Government congratulated Miss Clark on her appointment. Prime Minister John Key said it would be the highest diplomatic position held by a New Zealander, and Miss Clark had credibility on the world stage.

The Green Party and the Maori Party also congratulated her on Friday, saying they wished her all the best in her new role.

Through a spokesman, Miss Clark says she is greatly honoured by the nomination. However, she will not make any further comment until the appointment is confirmed by the General Assembly, which will happen next week at the earliest.

The job of running the Development Programme is the third-highest position at the UN after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro.

Miss Clark applied for the post earlier this year and will replace Kemal Dervis from Turkey.

As administrator, Miss Clark would be in charge of a budget of almost $9 billion and oversee programmes focused on poverty reduction, health, good governance and conflict resolution in developing nations. The programme employs nearly 8,000 people in 166 countries.

Fahan Hak, speaking for Mr Ban, says Miss Clark's overall experience with the international community and consensus building skills will be welcome.

He says Miss Clark will be able to draw in a wide variety of people to various programmes. The job will involve things such as improving the governance of different nations, assisting with elections and various reconstruction tasks.

It will be the highest international post held by a New Zealander since former prime minister Mike Moore held the post of director-general of the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Moore says Miss Clark's standing in the international community is a big factor in her landing the job and her political skills and longevity made her a strong candidate.


The Labour Party says it is extremely proud of Miss Clark's achievement in securing the post but will be sad to see her go.

She will have to resign as an MP to take up the UN job, forcing a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Mt Albert. Miss Clark has held the seat since 1981.

Labour's senior whip, Darren Hughes, is not yet commenting on possible candidates, saying nominations will not open until the seat has officially been declared vacant.