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Ex-New Zealand PM Enters Race for Top UN Post

  • VOA News

Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and senior United Nations official, speaks during an interview in New York, Monday, April 4, 2016.

Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and senior United Nations official, speaks during an interview in New York, Monday, April 4, 2016.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is running to succeed Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general of the United Nations.

The New Zealand government formally submitted Clark's name to world body on Monday. Current prime minister John Key praised his predecessor as "a proven leader" with "the right mix of skills and experience for the job" during a press conference in Wellington announcing her nomination.

"If you think about the role of the secretary-general of the United Nations, it is the most important diplomatic role in the world. This is the body that shows leadership on behalf of the globe, and I think if you look at Helen Clark, it isn't just the time that she spent in New Zealand as prime minister where she was very dedicated to foreign policy or her time actually at the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), it's actually her entire life has been dedicated to foreign policy. That's been her area of great passion and interest. She is immensely knowledgeable and incredibly talented and I think there'll be a lot of people on, you know who ultimately will have to make a call, who will look at her and say this is a person that has great intellect and a deep understanding of the issues," said Key.

The 66-year-old Clark served as New Zealand prime minister for 1999 to 2008, when her Labor Party was defeated in parliamentary elections by Key's center-right National Party. She has headed the United Nations Development Program since April 2009. In a series of interviews, Clark has pledged to reform the 70-year-old U.N. so it can refocus its efforts on civil wars and violent extremists.

Clark becomes the eighth candidate to seek the secretary-general's post. Three other women are also running -- Bulgaria's Irina Bokova, the head of the U.N.'s cultural organization, former Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic and ex-Moldovan foreign minister Natalia Gherman. Many members in the world body are pushing for the first woman to become secretary-general, but Russia wants the next U.N. chief to come from Eastern Europe, which would be a first for the region.

The U.N. General Assembly will hold public hearings for all the candidates next week. The winning candidate will formally take over the post next January.

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