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Sydney Film Festival 2017 - Film Review - My Year with Helen

Administrator of the UN Development Programme, Helen Clark
The 2016 campaign by the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Helen Clark, to be the next UN Secretary-General is the subject of this insightful documentary by Gaylene Preston.  Over its 72 year history, there have been eight Secretaries-General of the United Nations, yet none have been a woman, nor has the appointment process been public. In 2016, this situation changed and candidates were invited to stand for the role, nominated by member states. At the same time, there was a concerted effort made by a number of related groups to campaign for a woman to be appointed to the top position. Despite being the favoured candidate by UN staff, the media and many member nations of the General Assembly, it became increasingly obvious that Clark had limited traction with the most powerful body of the United Nations, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The Security Council in effect control the appointment of Secretary-General and can exercise their veto power to block any candidate before the vote is ever taken by the General Assembly.

As Preston's documentary demonstrates, the power of the five is absolute and a number of straw polls were taken of the Security Council members prior to the final decision being made. Clark consistently was placed in the middle of the field of the dozen candidates and no women were in the top rated positions. The end result was that the United States, China and France vetoed Clark's candidacy while Russia and the United Kingdom were neutral which would allow her candidacy to proceed. The winner was the former Prime Minister of Portugal and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015, António Guterres. Was Clark the victim of a male dominated institution or very likely was she possibly too good a candidate given her successful reforms of the UN Development program and the risk she would modernise the UN posing a challenge to the power of the five permanent members ? Of note, the US Ambassador to the UN was a woman and yet the US did not vote for Clark. This documentary is a very good low key study of the politics of the UN and the shadow boxing which does occur in the world of diplomacy.


This post first appeared on Sentinel Owl, please read the originial post: here

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