Setting aside personal and political

April 5, 2016

Prime Minister John Key has announced that the government is nominating Helen Clark for the top bureaucratic job in the world – United Nations secretary-general:

Prime Minister John Key has today announced the New Zealand Government is nominating Helen Clark for the position of the United Nations Secretary-General.

“Having served as the Prime Minister of New Zealand for nine years and held one of the top jobs in the United Nations for the past seven, Helen Clark has the right mix of skills and experience for the job,” says Mr Key.

“There are major global challenges facing the world today and the United Nations needs a proven leader who can be pragmatic and effective.

“Coming from New Zealand, Helen Clark is well placed to bridge divisions and get results. She is the best person for the job.”

Helen Clark was the Prime Minister of New Zealand for three consecutive terms from 1999 to 2008 and has worked as the Administrator of the UN Development Programme for the past seven years.

“Helen Clark has a vast amount of experience in international affairs which will be hard for other candidates to match. She’s a great listener and communicator, and I know she will make a difference if elected.” . . .

There was no love lost between the former and current PM when they were political rivals.

But since she first announced her intention to seek a job in the UN he has backed her and both have put any political and personal differences aside.

The UN is good in theory but often fails to live up to its promise in practice.

The Development Programme (UNDP)’s official report, which Clark led, said much of its annual US$5.7 billion (NZ$6.8 billion) budget is only remotely connected to ending global poverty.

Whether or not the criticism is fair, it highlights the size of the challenge facing the UN and its agencies.

It and they are far from perfect.

But in spite of its failings and inadequacies, there are benefits in having the 193 member states together attempting to find solutions to many, often long-standing, problems.

And there could be benefits for New Zealand to have a New Zealander heading it.

That’s why personal and political differences should be set aside to help the former PM get the post.

I disagree with a lot of her political views but I think she is well qualified for the position of Secretary-General.


Look at her record

January 16, 2013

The United Nations Development Programme’s executive board is less than impressed by progress in reducing poverty:

Former prime minister Helen Clark has been hit with a devastating critique of her United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in an official report saying much of its annual US$5.7 billion (NZ$6.8 billion) budget is only remotely connected to ending global poverty.

The densely worded report by the UNDP’s executive board – Clark’s bosses since she became secretary-general in April 2009 – amounts to a stinging performance review.

US media reports say she is leading a counter-attack claiming the study misses the point behind its work.

But the report paints a striking picture of a confused organisation seemingly unable to bring significant change to the world’s 1.3 billion poor people despite spending US$8.5 billion on fighting poverty between 2004 and 2011. . .

Is there any surprise in that, look at Ms Clark’s record on reducing poverty when she was Prime Minister of New Zealand.

That was a much easier job than tackling it on a global scale.

Yet what did she achieve in what was generally a good economic environment globally and domestically?

Her government introduced measures which gave assistance for people in greed rather than need, Welfare for Families which turned middle and upper income families into beneficiaries is a very expensive example of that.

It threw money at problems rather than seeking solutions.

It increased the burden of government, adding to public sector numbers without increasing productivity, and masked recession in the export sector with a consumption boom fuelled by borrowing and spending based on higher taxes.

The number of people unemployed and on very low incomes has increased since the global financial crisis. But there was already a solid foundation of poor who were not helped by Ms Clark’s government through nine years of much better economic times than we’ve had in the four years since she left.

In her defence however,  the executive summary says the report covers the period from 2,000, and Ms Clark has only been secretary general since 2009 and she was set an impossible task.

There are many causes of poverty and among those for the poorest are political and social factors against which an agency like the UN is powerless regardless of how much money it throws at the programme.

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