Clark won't linger on 'gee, golly, gosh'

Last updated 10:59 01/04/2009

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Former prime minister Helen Clark has been confirmed as the new head of the United Nations' Development Programme.

Miss Clark was nominated to the job by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week and it was approved by the UN General Assembly this morning (NZT).

Miss Clark, prime minister from 1999 to 2008, is due to start her new job in New York on April 20.

"I'll be spinning wheels to make that," Miss Clark told Radio New Zealand.

The position is the third highest in the UN, behind the secretary-general and his deputy.

She gained unanimous approval from the 192-nation General Assembly. The UNDP oversees a global development network with an estimated $US13 billion ($NZ23.12 billion) in resources. It operates in 166 nations.

Miss Clark will replace Kemal Dervis, a former Turkish Cabinet minister.

Ban's spokeswoman, Michele Montas, said Miss Clark "will bring a strategic perspective coupled with fresh thinking and impetus for change."

Miss Clark this morning said she had had a lot of big moments in her life, including winning her first election and winning one as prime minister.

"I guess this is another of those moments," she said.

"But actually, the sort of sense of 'gee, golly, gosh' is almost immediately replaced by 'there's an awful lot of things to do'."

That included sorting out the salary, terms and conditions, getting a UN passport and changing visa status for the United States as the job is based in New York.

Miss Clark said she was not daunted by the enormity of the job "but I know there is a tremendous number of things to get on top of very, very quickly".

"I'm very diligent and I'll just get on with it."

Miss Clark said it was up to the Government to name a date for a byelection in her Mount Albert seat but she believed it would be in June.

"It really depends on whether I'm going to get away exactly on time and the UN system has to really jump hurdles for that to happen," she said.

"But it would be very difficult for it to be before the budget so I would be thinking that June would be a more likely time.


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