UNDP head Helen Clark enters race for top UN job

5 Apr 16

Helen Clark, the head of the United Nations Development Programme, has announced she will run to succeed Ban Ki-Moon as the next UN secretary general.

The former New Zealand prime minister is the fourth woman to join the race for the position, putting greater pressure on the UN Security Council to select its first female leader.

After being nominated by New Zealand’s current prime minister John Key, Clark formally threw her hat into the ring in New York yesterday.

She told the AFP news agency that 30 years of proven leadership experience in both New Zealand and the UN were the reason she put herself forward.

Clark served as prime minister of New Zealand for nine years from 1999 to 2008 and has held the top post at the UNDP for seven.

She is up against four men and three women, including the head of UNESCO, Bulgarian Irina Bokova, former Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic, and former Moldovan foreign minister Natalia Gherman.

If any of them win the race, they will be the first woman to have held the post. Nine men have held the post since the UN was established in 1945.

The Guardian reported that in December that both the president of the UN general assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, and the president of the Security Council, Samantha Power, wrote a joint letter to all member states urging them to nominate female candidates.

Lykketoft, seen as a reformer, also looks set to drive the first increase in transparency of the selection process, beginning by setting up a website for candidates’ CVs.

The candidates will now have to submit a 2,000 word essay pitching themselves for the role. Afterwards they will be questioned by the Trusteeship Council of the UN in New York and by the public in two events co-hosted by the Guardian in New York and London. 

  • Emma Rumney

    Emma is a reporter at Cooking Recipes International. She also writes for in the UK.

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