Helen Clark: New head of UNDP

01 May 2009

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Helen Clark was officially sworn in April by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as UNDP’s new Administrator in the presence of senior members of the Secretary-General’s cabinet.

New Horizons - With her left hand on the UN Charter, she pledged to follow the ideals of the United Nations as laid out in the Charter. 

Helen Clark, of New Zealand, was unanimously approved by the UN General Assembly to head the UN’s development agency on 31 March 2009 for a term of four years. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nominated Helen Clark to replace outgoing Administrator Kemal Derviş of Turkey.  

As a strong supporter of development and the achievement of the MDGs, Helen Clark said that becoming the Administrator of UNDP is a big and exciting challenge.

"I am looking forward to leading UNDP at this critical time. I have a commitment to tackling poverty and injustice, and I regard it as an enormous privilege to tackle these issues at the international level. 

Helen Clark was selected amongst a group of excellent candidates, for her outstanding qualifications and numerous accomplishments in her long career, said Michelle Montas, the Secretary-General spokesperson, in an official statement.

Miss Clark has the needed leadership and international recognition that would allow her as the new Administrator to build on her predecessors legacy, said Montas. In addition, she will bring a strategic perspective coupled with fresh thinking and impetus for change.

Helen Clark has assumed her post on April 20th, 2009.

Clark has been a member of the New Zealand Parliament since 1981, and was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008. Concurrently, she held a number of other portfolios including Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

In government Helen Clark led her country’s policy debate on a wide range of economic, social, environmental, and cultural issues, including sustainability and climate change, and the development of an inclusive multicultural and multi-faith society. She was also a very active leader of her country’s international relations at bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels.

Between 1984 and 1987 she served as Chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee. From 1987 - 1990, she served as first Minister of Housing and Minister of Conservation, and then as Minister of Health, Minister of Labour, and Deputy Prime Minister.

In these capacities, she prioritised affordable housing, protection of New Zealand’s unique biodiversity, primary health care and public health, and gender equity in employment. Born in 1950 in New Zealand, Helen Clark is married to Professor Peter Davis. Miss Clark was educated at Auckland University where she studied Political Studies and History. She graduated with a BA in 1971 and an MA (Hons) in 1974.