Helen Clark, a Standout Candidate for the Next United Nations Secretary General

On Wednesday, the 13th of July, a debate was held in New York between the candidates for the next United Nations Secretary General. During her opening statement, Helen Clark criticised the United Nations (UN) record on peace and security, highlighting recent controversies that have surrounded peace operations. In regard to the recent abuse committed by UN peacekeepers, Clark highlighted the need for training and said that offenders should be sent home and prosecuted by their countries. In the event that this does not occur, Clark believes that the UN should be prepared to decline peacekeepers from these countries. Clark highlighted the necessity for the UN to improve its conflict prevention and conflict resolution practices, emphasising her belief that “long term answers lie in building the peaceful and inclusive societies which will talk their differences out and not fight them out.” However, for the short term Clark stressed the importance of anticipating the warning signs that could potentially lead to serious human rights abuse and conflict.

Clark is one of 12 candidates vying for the position of UN Secretary General. The role of secretary general usually rotates between regions and Eastern Europe is meant to be the next region to hold the position. Of the 12 candidates, eight are from the Eastern Europe region, two are from Latin America and Caribbean regional grouping and two are from the Western European and Others grouping. When asked about this, Clark said,“When we look at the scale of the challenges the world is facing… we need a global search for the best talent.”  Since 2009, Clark has been the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and has expressed her desire to carry on the work from this position and work towards building a better future.

The decision regarding the next secretary general needs to be made before Ban-Ki Moon, the current secretary general, retires in December. The Security Council is expected to make their decision in August, which the General Assembly will then ratify. Unlike in previous years, the lead-up process for the appointment of the secretary general has been semi-transparent. Ever since Clark entered the race, she has been a strong contender for this position. Many critics have praised Clark for her honest opinions, saying that this is an example of her being a woman of principle.

It is important that the individual who is chosen as the next secretary general is able to acknowledge the failures of the UN and be able to address the issues most prominent in the international community today, such as the continuing refugee crisis and the civil wars occurring in the Middle East. Clark is one of the most qualified candidates for this position. Her performance in this debate shows the dedication and experience that she can potentially bring to the position of secretary general. She continues to be a standout for this position, with her frank criticism of the UN’s conflict prevention, conflict resolution and human rights record. The Security Council will shortlist the candidates on July 21.

Lillian Wetherspoon