Former NZ Prime Minister confirmed as head of UNDP

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has been appointed as head of the United Nations Development Program.

The appointment follows a unanimous vote by the UN General Assembly yesterday. Clark will take up the role by April 20, replacing current UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis.

Helen Clark.

Clark is reportedly eager for the role, comparing it to winning her first election and becoming Prime Minister. "I guess this is another of those moments," she said.

The UNDP gives training and advice to developing countries to spur global development and to help them meet the Millennium Development Goals. It has offices in 166 countries and an annual budget of around US$5 billion. Its Administrator is the third highest ranking member of the United Nations after the United Nations Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General.

Clark has a long political career, having been first elected to Parliament in 1981. She was New Zealand's first elected woman Prime Minister, serving for three terms between 1999 and 2008. She became leader of the social-democratic New Zealand Labour Party in 1993, and led it until her defeat in the 2008 general election.

She has previously held a number of Cabinet portfolios, including Health, Housing, Conservation, and Arts, Culture and Heritage. In January 2008 Clark won the United Nations Environment Programme Champions of the Earth award in recognition of her government’s promotion of sustainability initiatives. In January 2009 she was recognised by the New Zealand Herald as the Greatest Living New Zealander.

Clark's appointment is expected to lead to a by-election in her Mt Albert electorate.