Campaigners join forces to put pressure on the Security Council to elect the first female secretary-general next year.
Helen Clark, a former New Zealand prime minister who is now a senior UN official, will run for the top position at the United Nations, saying she would bring nearly 30 years of leadership skills to the job of secretary general.
Clark is the eighth candidate and the first from outside Europe to enter the race to succeed Ban Ki-moon, whose second term expires at the end of this year. If she wins, she would become the first woman to hold the post.
Some in the UN are pushing for a woman to take the top role. Clark becomes the fourth female candidate for the job, joining UNESCO’s Bulgarian head Irina Bokova, former Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic and former Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman.
The New Zealand government has formally nominated Clark.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key raised the possibility of Clark’s candidacy with US President Barack Obama and other senior American officials when he was in Washington last week.
Key said he will make the case to Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visits the Asian nation later this month.
“I think the position is open,” Clark said in an interview with The AP news agency in New York. “The New Zealand government is responding to that, saying they think Helen is the best person for the job. So I go into it believing that at this time the critical thing for member states to look at is: What are the challenges?”
The UN secretary-general is chosen by the 193-member General Assembly on the recommendation of the 15-member Security Council, which means it is crucial to get support from its five veto-wielding members known as the P5: US, China, Russia, Britain and France.
“I could make a very strong case to you that Helen Clark’s credentials are far better than any other candidate that is currently on the list, or anyone that I’m aware of that might put their name forward,” said Key.
“But unfortunately, in the world of multilateralism, things are not quite as simple as that. There is a lot of horse-trading that goes on. It will depend enormously on the views of the P5 and ultimately if they feel it’s the turn of the Eastern Europeans or someone else.”
Clark was prime minister for nine years until 2008, and has headed the UN Development Programme for the past seven years.
She said that if she were to win the post, a top priority would be dealing with conflict caused by civil wars and “violent extremists”.
She said she thought she could bring a modernising touch to the organisation.
“I think it’s probably fair to say that as an administration it can be a little clunky and a little old-fashioned,” she said.
The UN General Assembly will begin preliminary meetings with candidates in New York from April 12 to 14 but there is no closing date for nominations and more are expected.