Helen Clark’s bid for the top job at the United Nations has finally been sunk, with the Security Council unanimously endorsing another candidate.
The Government says it has no regrets about backing Clark, with the campaign “well worth it” given the chance to promote a Kiwi on the world stage.
In the sixth straw poll for the UN secretary-general position, former Portugese prime minister Antonio Guterres was announced as the winner, with a formal endorsement “by acclamation” to take place on Friday (NZ time).
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin made the announcement to reporters surrounded by ambassadors from the 14 other council nations after they held their sixth informal poll of the 10 candidates behind closed doors
Guterres received 13 “encourage” votes and two “no opinions” from the 15 members of the UN Security Council, giving him an unassailable lead.
Clark herself received six “encourage” votes, eight “discourages” and one “no opinion”, with three vetoes used against her by the Security Council’s five permanent members.
She was quick to congratulate Guterres, calling him a “clear winner”.
— Helen Clark (@HelenClarkUNDP) October 5, 2016
In a statement, Clark said she knew of Guterres’ abilities from working with him both as Prime Minister and at the UN.
“Antonio has the knowledge and experience to lead the United Nations well, and I wish him every success.”
Clark said she “deeply appreciate[d] the full support I have had throughout my campaign” from the Government, Parliament and the NZ public, as well as others around the world.
“To all who supported my campaign, I thank you for your confidence in me and your many messages of support and encouragement.”
Good on you @HelenClarkUNDP for putting yourself up for UNSG. You had a go, you did your best. Your country supported you. ?
— Judith Collins (@JudithCollinsMP) October 5, 2016
GOVT: ‘NO REGRETS’ ABOUT BACKING CLARK
Speaking from Brussels, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the odds had been “very heavily stacked against” Clark from the beginning, given the geopolitical considerations.
“In all of the engagements I’ve had here going back over many months now, it’s been clear that Europe has been very keen to claim what it sees as its role in the rotational process, and that’s proven to be the case.”
Clark’s desire “to be more general than secretary as secretary-general” had also counted against her with countries who preferred a more malleable candidate, McCully said.
“Some of the members of the Security Council…clearly would prefer not to have someone with such a strong desire to lead in the role, I think that’s something that’s been made clear by some of the opposition that she’s had to her candidature.”
However, the Government had no regrets about throwing its weight behind Clark, given the unique opportunity to promote a Kiwi on the world stage.
“It’s very very infrequently that we have a New Zealander able to contend for the position of secretary-general with that sort of track record, so I think we were absolutely right to nominate Helen Clark.”
The cost of Clark’s campaign was fairly insignificant, and had been “well worth it”, McCully said.
POOR SHOWINGS IN STRAW POLLS
Clark was already seen as an underdog after a series of poor showings in straw polls, with the last one in late September putting her seventh-equal out of nine candidates.
In Thursday’s ballot, the five permanent members of the Security Council used coloured ballots for the first time – revealing which way they voted.
By tradition, the job of secretary-general has rotated among regions. Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe have all held the post.
East European nations, including Russia, argued that they had never had a secretary-general and it was their turn.
There has also never been a woman secretary-general and more than 50 nations were campaigning to elect the first female UN chief, along with many organisations.