Helen Clark says the United Nations is feeling the effects of the slowing global economy and says conflicts around the world are adding to the problem.

The former New Zealand Prime Minister and candidate for the UN's Secretary-General role made the statement during a live feed from the UN this morning.

She said the global economy had seen much slower growth for some time now and that was now affecting the UN Development programme, which she runs.

She said the programme's main funders were developed countries, and even they were struggling to donate as much as in the past.

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In addition, she said, conflicts around the world were draining funding away from development and into meeting the catastrophic emergency needs of affected countries.

She said if she gets the top job she will be focusing on making the United Nations more accessible.

She believes the role needs transformative leadership that engages with all global communities and brings different states together.

Institutions can become in danger of looking tired and detached if they don't reinvent themselves, she says.

Helen Clark, who heads the UN Development Programme, says part of her mission would be to see the UN move with the times and be more outward-facing and engaged with society.