Helen Clark asked anything and everything

By Paul Harper

Helen Clark has participated in an Ask Me Anything online chat on community website Reddit. Photo / Facebook/Supplied
Helen Clark has participated in an Ask Me Anything online chat on community website Reddit. Photo / Facebook/Supplied

Helen Clark has no desire to return to New Zealand politics or voice an opinion on the Kim Dotcom saga currently hogging headlines at home.

Instead, the former New Zealand Prime Minister is keen to meet the Flight of the Conchords duo, while her favourite inspirational quote is "Never look back. Move on. Aim high. Etc."

Clark, the first elected female Prime Minister of New Zealand, participated in an Ask Me Anything online chat on community website Reddit this morning.

While many of the questions related to Clark's role as director of the UN's Development Programme, many Reddit users (known as "Redditors") wanted to know about Clark's time as Prime Minister, or about New Zealand in general.

Clark said her greatest achievement as Prime Minister was making New Zealand a "fairer, better place to live in", while the single biggest challenge was "getting unemployment down and keeping it down - which I'm happy to say was achieved".

The biggest difference between being the leader of New Zealand and her role in the United Nations was the commute - "400 miles to work from Auckland to Wellington - and being able to walk from home to work in NY".

"What do I miss most? Family - but everyone is only a phone call, text, or email away," she wrote.

Clark would not respond to questions about the Kim Dotcom saga, as it is before the courts, or about current New Zealand politics.

"While you can ask anything - don't expect me to dive back into Kiwi political debates! Been there, done that!" she said.

She named Nelson Mandela as the living politician she looks up to most, describing him as "an inspiration to all".

Clark was asked about why she pushed to have Sir Paul Holmes knighted when her Labour Government had abolished knighthoods while in power.

"In NZ everyone knows I don't agree with knighthoods - my government abolished them. But I do think the late Paul Holmes was worthy of a top honour."

Asked if Flight of the Conchords stars Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement were as "cool in person as they seem", Clark replied: "I guess so! Haven't met them - would be excited to!"

While not revealing whether she hoped to become UN Secretary General in the future, Clark said she hoped that particular "glass ceiling can be broken one day".

She didn't experience sexism and misogyny while she was Prime Minister, but "there was a bit on the way up," she said.

Clark said New Zealand's position atop international transparency and anti-corruption indexes was due to "strong institutions and values, a free media, active civil society, and parliamentary scrutiny".

One Redditor asked Clark what activities New Zealand locals do that foreigners may not know about.

"New Zealanders are very creative people - across the visual, literary, and performing arts. So look out for the theatres, galleries, concert halls," she responded.

"As well, the range of the NZ landscape is extraordinary - from a near sub-tropical north to a near sub-Antarctic south. Mountains, coastlines, glaciers, forests - getting out there and enjoying all that is something many Kiwis love to do."

Many of the questions from Redditors focused on the UN's Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets which range from halving extreme poverty to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. Clark will this week attend a conference called "Making the MDGs Work: From Advocacy through Implementation to Acceleration and beyond" in Bogota, Colombia, where she will talk about the development agenda post-2015.

Clark argued the MDGs have been a success, despite slow progress in countries suffering from conflict. She said the greatest success of the targets was getting international buy-in.

"Overall the MDGs have been a success - at the global level. But there are huge differences within countries and between countries on the rate of progress. The post-2015 agenda development should not lose sight of the unfinished MDG business, while also taking up issues which weren't fully incorporated in the MDGs we currently have," she said.

Clark had advice for students keen to work in the development field or at the United Nations.

"Apply widely; be prepared to work in places off the beaten track ..." she said.

* Read the full question and answer session here.

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