Now Even More Powerful: Our Hero Helen Clark

Helen ClarkHelen Clark, born in 1950, served as New Zealand’s prime minister from 1999 to 2008. She was the first woman to be elected PM of her country and upon leaving office was celebrated as the ‘Greatest Living New Zealander’ in a newspaper poll. Her term of office coincided with strong growth in the economy and government concern about sustainability (she tackled problems over climate change). Her administrations were considered very strong on foreign policy and international issues. She proved to be an enthusiastic supporter of free trade and during her premiership New Zealand became the first developed country to sign a free trade agreement with China.

“Any serious shift towards more sustainable societies has to include gender equality”.

As prime minister, Clark set out to strengthen the United Nations and, in 2009, upon leaving office, took up a key role at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In March 2012 she confirmed that she would be seeking a second term in the office of Administrator overseeing an annual budget of $5.8 billion and a staff of 8,000 spread across 177 countries. The General Assembly confirmed her reappointment on April 12th this year. She was the first woman to lead the organisation and spearheads efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and promote good governance. Her proposed solutions to these problem centre focus on gender equality and reproductive health.

Clark is our Hero not only because of the endorsement she received from citizens after leaving office (in how many other countries would a former premier receive that sort of accolade?) but also because of the work she has taken on since leaving government. Forbes magazine ranked her 21st most powerful woman in the world in 2013 – up forty places since the days of her premiership.


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