If you are still on the fence about who should be the next SG, then let me by all means make the choice easier for you. Her name is Helen Clark, and if you don’t know about her already, then kindly turn on any episode of Lord of the Rings, and you will see where she is from. Ok, so it’s a loose affiliation, but come on, everyone has watched Lord of the Rings.
Back to Aunty Helen, as we, in the Pacific all like to call her, because she is one of us. These are the ten main reasons why she should be the next SG of the United Nations.
- She is very cool
In the early days of my journalism career, I interviewed her at Aggie Greys Hotel. I was in my early twenties, nervous as hell to door stop my first Prime Minister, and yet, yet yet, she stopped, smiled, joked and gave me the light of day that others wouldn’t, in that gathering. She hikes our Mt. Vaea whenever she comes to Samoa and met with a group of NGOs in a far flung village, without any press or any VIPs, just because she enjoyed their company.
- She was Prime Minister of NZ
If you can count’ Prime Minister of Middle Earth as one of your credentials for the top job, I say – yes please, sure thing. Aunty Helen was the first woman elected at a general election as the Prime Minister for NZ and served three consecutive terms from 1999 to 2008. FYI. New Zealand is one of the most peaceful nations on earth- and she didn’t mess it up during her time – like some people (I’m not naming any names: Brexit much). Anyhow, she lead a country and Government successfully, which to me is pretty good evidence of one’s leadership skills and ability to run, say – the UN for instance.
- She is the daughter of a farmer
The thing about Aunty Helen is this. She is from a background rooted in hard work, she grew up in a farming family. Her father George was a farmer and her mother Margaret, a primary school teacher. From what I know of leaders, it’s always good to have one who understands the struggle of real people.
- She is from the South Pacific
It is very rare for one of our own from the South Pacific to make it to such levels, well, except for Fiji whose rep Peter Thomson is the current President of UNGA. But if the UNSG role is to be headed by anyone, let it be someone who knows Small Island Developing States. Let it be a representative of a nation whose recent bilateral relations with our islands have actually made a difference. Let it be New Zealand, the land where our ancestors sought refuge and subsequently got screwed over at times (sorry, had to say it – refer to point 10). Let it be Aunty Helen, whom we have full faith would act in our best interest when push comes to shove.
- She is Administrator of UNDP
As my friends in the Former UN Staff Facebook page would tell you, anyone who survives in UNDP for more than a year – should be given a medal and a three year holiday for navigating the beauracracy and politics that is UNDP. Since 2009, Aunty Helen has held the role of Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. This is an extremely significant role, and she is the first woman to hold the title. With that experience and knowledge of the UN system, having lead the largest, most convoluted agencies in the UN, the job of SG should quite frankly – be a walk in the park for her.
- She is a trade unionist
Long before she was Prime Minister and Administrator of UNDP, Aunty Helen fought for the people. “Helen Clark is a principled leader who stood on a platform of social democracy, independent foreign policy and investment in people and communities,” said Helen Kelly, President of the Council of Trade Unions for New Zealand in a statement. Come on – when you get such a glowing recommendation from some of the toughest folks in the room, that deserves some degree of acknowledgement. I learned from working with the International Labour Organization in the past that leaders who follow through on decent work standards should be applauded. During her time as Prime Minister she raised the minimum wage by 5% a year and introduced interest-free student loans.
- She is married to a sociologist
Although no one should claim extra points based on the profession of their partner or spouse, I draw on this particular trait, as any woman who marries an academic, a sociologist for that matter, would have probably developed amazing debating skills by now. When one is married to a “nerd” like I am, one needs to fine tune the art of arguing for one’s point, backing up your argument with facts, figures and anecdotal evidence. Additionally, anyone who is within breathing distance of a sociologist would have an appreciation of social behaviour – and therefore not take shit personally when others make personal, scathing or sexist remarks aimed at you. One can explain it within the intriguing sphere of sociology. You will note this in Aunty Helen’s debating skills as evident in the recent UNSG contenders’ debate. Girl has it down pat.
- She is an environmentalist
It is only natural that someone who likes the outdoors like Aunty Helen also has a passion for the environment. Earlier in her career she was Minister of Conservation for New Zealand and a recipient of the UNEP Champions of the Earth award in 2008. She is also patron of the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust (RDWT) in New Zealand. As a representative from the South Pacific, she would have an understanding of the environmental issues facing SIDS and will act upon it.
- She is woman and she is strong
I did not put this at the top because a person’s gender should not give them priority over another. However the experiences faced by a person as a result of their gender does afford them strength of character that adds to their abilities. There are many articles focussed on how this strong woman overcame much to rise in the ranks of politics internationally. This is better reflected when she said: “What do politicians fear most? They fear not being taken seriously. The fear of being trivialised.”
- She apologized
My country was ruled by New Zealand in the early 1900s and as a result of appalling management by administrators at the time, they were responsible for the outbreak of influenza epidemic which wiped out 22% of Samoa’s population. This lead to the Mau, a peaceful civil rights movement by the Chiefs and people of Samoa. In 1929 during a Mau peaceful protest, the New Zealand police opened fire killing Paramount Chief and Leader of the Mau, Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III and at least 9 others and injuring 50. It took 70 years and a woman Prime Minister to admit the atrocity and apologize to Samoa for the injustice. In her speech in 2002, which I witnessed. She said: “On behalf of the New Zealand government, I wish to offer today a formal apology to the people of Samoa for the injustices arising from New Zealand’s administration of Samoa in its earlier years, and to express sorrow and regret for those injustices. There are events in our past which have been little known in New Zealand, although they are well known in Samoa. Those events relate to the inept and incompetent early administration of Samoa by New Zealand.”
In my book anyone who admits a mistake was made and apologizes for it, deserves my respect. So here’s to you Helen, and your pursuit for the SG role. Go forth and make us all proud.