Helen Clark walks into the conference room at her New York headquarters clutching the Smoke Free cup that travelled with her from New Zealand.
Five years in the big apple and she still hasn’t got around to getting herself a new tea cup.
Something else hasn’t changed since Clark bid farewell to New Zealand five years ago: she struggles to see a place for herself back home, though she doesn’t rule out returning eventually when the time comes to ”relax” a bit more.
That time is clearly not on her horizon any time soon, which is why there is mounting speculation about Clark’s future at the end of her second term as the United Nation’s third-ranked official, as head of the UN Development Programme.
Clark is increasingly having to bat away questions about her ambition to succeed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in two years’ time.
She says she will neither rule it in or out – and adds that it is not appropriate for her to talk about the job now, given that Ban Ki-Moon is only midway through his second term.
”He has been a great supporter of mine, which is why I am here today.”
But she says ”there will come a time when that debate is appropriate and member states have got to work out what it is they are looking for in this day and age”.
The UN has never been headed by a woman, for instance – and that should matter, suggests Clark.
“I think the women of the world will be screaming ‘yes’. It will be a year when a woman is making a very strong bid for the US presidency. There’s a woman at the International Monetary Fund, a woman at the Federal Reserve, there’s a lot of last bastions being stormed by women, so the time will come when women say ‘what about the UN?’.”
And of course that woman could be her, by happy coincidence for Helen!
While not impossible, a Clark successful candidacy is very unlikely. The job tends to go by regional rotation and it is Eastern Europe’s term. The Ukraine situation would make it even more intolerable for them to miss out.
Also there is an unwritten requirement the UN Secretary-General can speak French. Unless Helen has been getting lessons, I don’t think she can.
Also few Secretary-Generals come up through the UN. Most are serving or just retired foreign ministers.
Ban Ki-Moon was the South Korean Foreign Minister when elected. Kofi Annan was a UN bureaucrat, but before him Boutros Boutros-Ghali was Egyptian Foreign Minister when elected. Javier Perez de Cuellar was a career diplomat for Peru. Kurt Walhheim was the Austrian foreign minister. U Thant was a career diplomat for Burma. Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was Deputy Foreign Minister of Sweden and Trygve Halvdan Lie was the Foreign Minister for Norway.