Saturday 23 September 2017

Former New Zealand leader Helen Clark to leave top UN post

Helen Clark pictured with the Queen at the dedication of the New Zealand Memorial in Hyde Park, in 2014
Helen Clark pictured with the Queen at the dedication of the New Zealand Memorial in Hyde Park, in 2014

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark is stepping down from the helm of the United Nations Development Programme, three months after she failed to land the world body's top job.

Ms Clark, 66, who has led the programme for the past seven years, wrote a message to staff saying she was leaving on April 19 at the conclusion of her second four-year term.

"These are times of change across the UN system," she said, adding that making progress on sustainable development goals, which include ending poverty and taking action to combat climate change, "must continue unabated".

Ms Clark was one of 13 candidates who competed to replace Ban Ki-moon, whose 10-year tenure as UN secretary general ended in December.

But she never gained much traction in the race, which was won by former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres.

Mr Guterres begins his term with the organisation facing hostility from new US president Donald Trump, who wrote on Twitter last month: "The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!"

Ms Clark was first elected to New Zealand's Parliament at 31 and served nine years as prime minister, from 1999 until 2008.

She became the first woman administrator of the UN Development Programme the following year.

AP

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