There is no single reason why Helen Clark did not beat former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres to become the next UN Secretary-General. There are many.

After months of campaigning and six ballots it is evident there are many. Here are the top 10:

1. State of Origin I: She was not from Eastern Europe when it was considered Eastern Europe's turn in the rotational tradition of appointment.

2. State of Origin II: She was not from Europe at all which was considered the second best option by the adherents to the rotational ethos including Russia and France.


3. Leadership Style: While both have been competent leaders of countries and UN agencies, he as UN High Commissioner for Refugees and she as head of the UN Development Programme, Guterres is seen as a warmer character than Clark.

4. Refugee crisis: The severity of the refugee crisis facing Europe cannot but have enhanced the prospects of Guterres.

5. Reform agenda: Clark's track record at the UNDP suggested she would have made serious attempts to reform the UN, including the culture that gives the P5 huge influence over senior appointments.

The severity of the refugee crisis likely helped Antonio Guterres' bid. Photo / AP
The severity of the refugee crisis likely helped Antonio Guterres' bid. Photo / AP

6. No advantage:

The active campaigns in the General Assembly for a woman to become the next UN Secretary-General gained little traction in the Security Council; likewise Clark's leadership in social media and modern campaigning styles counted for nothing.

7. Head start: Clark started campaigning later than Guterres, who finished his job as UN High Commissioner for Refugees in December. As the UN's No 3, she kept her candidacy well under wraps until April.

8. US opposition: The United States not only refused to support Clark, it opposed her. Its choice of Susana Malcorra from Argentina was driven by the current UN ambassador, Samantha Power, and former ambassador Susan Rice.

9. UK's passive support: Britain may have voted to leave the EU but its interests are still closely tied to Europe. While it supported Clark, it was not prepared to be her champion.


10. No momentum: Clark's support declined. She started with eight countries backing her and two abstentions but quickly dropped to six and sustained that over the next five ballots. In today's ballot, she got six in support, eight against and one abstention.