Helen Clark is confirmed!

April 1, 2009

Congratulations Helen Clark, new head of the UNDP.

I was very interested to read John Key’s comments on the appointment:

“Helen Clark should be very proud of her achievement and New Zealanders should be very proud of her,” Mr Key said.

“She will be working to help establish democracies, reduce poverty, improve health care, help in crisis prevention and recovery and assist with environmental issues.”

“In other words the UNDP needs someone who can front for them, mobilise resources and give the organisation a human face,” he said.

This at a time when Key’s government is looking at merging NZAid back into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and thereby making aid a tool of foreign policy and economic priorities.  As I was told today by someone close to NZAid, in practical terms for the Pacific, this means money being re-directed away from grassroots development projects and towards propping up regional airlines and other strategic business interests.  It all makes me very skeptical about whether or not National really does care about poverty alleviation.  I’m quite convinced they know nothing about aid and development beyond thier own political biases.

While I am pleased for Clark, and think she will probably be a great person for the job (and I love seeing a kiwi woman in such a great position) unfortunately she doesn’t escape my scepticism either.  She says:

“For a start we have to ensure that the donors … the Western countries who donate, don’t drop back on commitments,” Clark told National Radio in her first interview since her appointment was confirmed.

This from someone who led a government that seemed unable to raise aid past 0.3% of GNI, despite being a signatory to a UN target of 0.7%.  Can she hold other countries to a commitment she couldn’t keep?

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