|Born:||February 26, 1950 (age 71)|
|Career:||Administrator of the U.N. Development Programme, 2009-present |
Prime minister of New Zealand, 1999-2008
Leader of the Opposition, 1993-1999
Deputy prime minister of New Zealand, 1989-1990
Minister of Health, 1989-1990
Member of the New Zealand Parliament, 1981-2009
|Education:||University of Auckland|
Helen Clark served as New Zealand's prime minister from 1999 to 2008, the first woman elected at a general election as the prime minister and was fifth-longest serving person to hold the office. Following her terms as prime minister, Clark became the administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in April 2009; she is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programs and departments working on development issues.
Clark was born February 26, 1950, in Hamilton, New Zealand. She graduated from the University of Auckland with a B.A. and an M.A. in political science, with first class honors, in 1974. After graduating, she went on to teach in the political science department there.
Prior to serving as prime minister, Clark was first elected to parliament in 1981. She was re-elected by her multicultural Auckland constituency for the tenth time in November 2008. Early in her career, she chaired parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. Between 1987 and 1990, she was a minister responsible for the portfolios of conservation, housing, health and labor. She was deputy prime minister from August 1989 to November 1990. From 1990 to 1993, she served as the deputy leader of the opposition and then as the leader of the opposition until winning the election in November 1999.
Throughout her tenure as prime minister, Clark engaged widely in policy development and advocacy across the international, economic, social and cultural spheres. Under her leadership, New Zealand achieved significant economic growth, low levels of unemployment; and high levels of investment in education, health, and the well-being of families and older citizens. She and her government prioritized reconciliation and the settlement of historical grievances with New Zealand's indigenous peoples and the development of an inclusive multicultural and multi-faith society. Clark advocated strongly for New Zealand's comprehensive program on sustainability and for tackling the problems of climate change. She was also an active leader of her country's foreign relations and policies, engaging in a wide range of international issues.
As prime minister, Clark was a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers, whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development. She held ministerial responsibility during her nine years as prime minister for New Zealand's intelligence agencies and for the portfolio of arts, culture and heritage. She saw the promotion of this latter portfolio as important in expressing the unique identity of her nation in a positive way.
Photo by United Nations Development Programme (helen clark) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons