Helen Clark - live commentary from the General Assembly hearing

From 12 - 14 April 2016, candidates for the position of UN Secretary-General are taking part in informal dialogues at the General Assembly, as provided for by Resolution 69/321.  The 1 for 7 Billion campaign welcomes this historic breakthrough and the additional transparency and scrutiny that comes with it.

Rather than a complete record, the following commentary picks up on statements pertinent to 1 for 7 Billion's campaign proposals.

Thursday 14 April - live from the General Assembly in New York

11:00: Helen Clark (New Zealand)

11:17: Clark begins to deliver her vision statement, describing her history of engagement with the UN.

11:20: "Problems are getting harder to solve and the opportunities are harder to grasp." Clark sees the years ahead as, "vital" to delivering on the UN's promises.

11:21: Clark is "optimistic" about the relevance and effectiveness of the UN and notes the importance of preventive diplomacy.

11:22: Clark notes that, "urgent action," is needed on climate change.  

11:23: Moving forward, Clark notes that the UN should strive to be, "practical and effective."  The "Secretary-General must update the administration and make full use of new technologies."

11:26:  The UN, "must be transparent and frank about what it can and can't do." "Transparency as a guiding principle by which Secretary-General should relate to the Security Council."

11:27: The Group of 77 and China ask, 'How will you ensure that the SDG Agenda will be achieved by 2030?', 'How would you ensure equal and fair distribution based on gender and geographical balance in UN senior level appointments and the broader UN system?'

11:29: The NAM asks, 'How will you work with regional organizations?' 'What are your views on a single, non-renewable term of seven years for the SG?'

11:40: Clark: "The primary responsibility of the UN Charter rests with Member States." 

11:41: Clark describes the SG's role as a leader of the whole UN system, noting her role as a champion for Member States' contributions to the UN and its Funds and Programmes. 

11:42: On south-south cooperation, Clark sees the UN's role as a facilitator.

11:42: Clark sees a wide range of responsibilities  for the SG, she takes a 'holistic approach to the role'.  She sees the, 'whole great orchestra' of the UN as a supporter and advocate for long-term peacebuilding and development.

UN has major convening power - it could be seen as act more decisively.  Clark notes recent cases of peacekeeper abuse which should be 'dealt with quickly and decisively.' 

Clark 'sees the case' for a single term.  Member States should determine. 

11:45: On geographical rotation for senior posts, including SG, Clark notes the importance of  merit-basis and the consideration of the 'full range of talent available'.

11:48: On global refugee crises, Clark emphasizes looking at 'root causes'.

11:49: "Leaders can't know everything.  It is important to build a team and I put enormous emphasis on recruiting quality staff." 

11:49: Clark sees the UN and SG's role as 'soft power'.

11:51: The Accountability, Coherence and Transparency, ACT, Group asks about conflict prevention.  'What is your 'style of leadership'?'

11:52: 'What are your thoughts on the major security challenges for smaller states?'  'How would you reform the UN?'

11:54: Group of Friends in Favor of a Woman Candidate for Secretary-General asks, 'How would you ensure equal opportunities for women, especially at senior management level?'  'How would you advance the Women, Peace and Security agenda?'

12:01: 'How would you ensure that the UN is more green in its operations and outlook?' 

12:04: Clark notes the importance of looking to the 'drivers of conflict' in preventing and addressing crises. 

12:06: As SG, Clark wants to 'maintain close contact with teams on the ground who know what's going on but don't always get heard.'  

12:07: Clark sees herself as a 'pragmatic, task-focused and results-oriented' leader.  "I'm not in it for the glory." 

12:08: One of Clark's major security priorities: "Any state where governance is not strong has a vulnerability.  Where rule and law and institutions aren't strong, organized criminals will find a way to do damage." 

12:09: Clark would aim for gender-parity in senior appointments.  'Where you seek [quality], you will find it.'

12:10: On UN reform, Clark says, "look at what's working and what isn't."

12:11: On the 2030 Agenda, Clark calls for action anchored in-country, synchronized with national plans.

12:13: "We should be putting more money towards Least Developed Countries, LDCs."

12:14: Italy: 'How would you rank your priorities in terms of UN reform?'

12:19: G4 asks, 'What is your view on the reform of the Security Council?' 'What do you consider your most important achievement as UNDP administrator in terms of reform, and what would you do to reform the UN system as SG?'

12:22: Canada asks, "Could you give us two initiatives that you would put forward to address the issue of too many silos and vested interests?" "Tell us about your experience in speaking truth to power." 

12:25: Clark's view on Security Council reform: "I think multilateral institutions need to review governance in order to remain legitimate and relevant... It is important that reform does not crowd out the ability of small states to be elected to the Council - such as expansion of the Council. As SG, I would study what previous SG's have done to revive the discussion on expansion." 

12:30: On her legacy at UNDP: 'I want to leave a legacy of a better strategic plan, a more focused organization,with a business model that allows the organization to function regardless of the funding situation.' In her tenure, UNDP's management budget has been significantly reduced in favor of funding for program activities.

12:31: On countering violent extremism, Clark notes a 'developmental approach'. 'What drives these groups?'  Places emphasis on youth recruitment.  

12:35: Civil Society organizations ask questions on advancing women's rights, displacement and climate change, and ethnic minority rights. 

12:37: On climate change, Clark emphasizes the need to pivot approach towards 'adaptation' for those who are on the 'front lines' of climate change. 

12:39: France asks: "How do you intend to work to ensure that peacekeepers are better protected?" 

12:44: Spain asks Clark's view on sanctions and the current state of non-proliferation agenda.

12:46: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines calls Clark 'the establishment candidate'.  How would she counter negative associations in that regard? 

12:48: Poland asks 'how do you see the concept of geographical rotation?'

12:50: UK asks, 'if there was a clear and flagrant breach of the UN charter, how would you deal with this?'

13:00: US asks, 'how would you ensure the zero tolerance policy to ensure true accountability for UN peacekeepers?' 

13:01: Rwanda: 'How will you work with the Security Council to make it more responsive to conflict and in fighting impunity?'

13:12: Trinidad and Tobago asks, 'what would you do as SG to mobilize resources to focus on the security issues affecting SIDS?'

13:14: Mexico asks, 'how would you reactivate a discussion on the responsibility to protect?'

13:15: Panama: 'How would you ensure collaboration across UN agencies?'

13:17: Clark notes the importance of field focused and people-centric peacekeeping, placing a special emphasis on prevention.

13:19: On collaboration, Clark says she sees potential for joint planning and joint programming across the UN system and its Funds and Programs. 

13:20: Clark: "I have never been an establishment candidate in anything I have done.  As a woman becoming the first elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, the first woman to head UNDP, etc. ... I look at things out of the box". 

13:23: On rule of law and access to justice, Clark has encouraged UNDP to give full support to the principle of complementarity, ensuring national legislation in line with the principles of the Rome Statute. 

13:25: Clark has placed an emphasis in UNDP on middle-income countries and their unique challenges.

13:26: Across the UN system, "we have to draw on all our strengths." 

13:27: Clark raises the need for 'evidence based' solutions and analysis.

13:28: The early warning approach of the Human Rights Up Front initiative should be continued.

13:29: Clark is a 'strong believe in more legal avenues for labor migration.' 

13:30: Clark thanks the membership for their serious questions. 

Media stakeout: 

13:33: Clark values the PGA's 'opening up of the process' to engage with Member States and civil society. 

13:36: On reforming the UN, Clark says 'we could have a better value for money and some of the processes are a bit clunky.  We could start a process to ensure that the systems are good for good people 

13:37: "Member states will have to work out what is appropriate [in terms of selection process]." "I welcome it being opened up, because transparency is important." 

13:38: On Israel/Palestine conflict, "It is a matter of great sadness to me that this has not been resolved in my lifetime, if there is anything I can do I will do it." 

13:39: In my time at UNDP, "we have embraced the principle of transparency..." 

13:41: Would you be bold enough to challenge states? 

13:41:  "There is an expectation that a SG will speak truth to power based on good judgement and a lot of evidence." 

Photo: Candidate for Next Secretary-General Addresses Member States. Copyright UN Photo/Rick Bajornas