You are here: “We have to keep fighting”: Former head of UNDP speaks on gender parity at the UN

5 December 2017

On 27 November United Nations Association - UK (UNA-UK), University of Westminster Model United Nations and the Department of Politics and International Relations co-hosted a film-screening of “My Year With Helen”and Q&A with Helen Clark and Director Gaylene Preston.

UNA-UK was delighted to host the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and former head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) following her campaign to be the first female UN Secretary-General in 2016. 

My Year with Helen”, a film directed by Gaylene Preston, follows Helen Clark’s footsteps in five different countries during her campaign and carrying out her work as Administrator of UNDP. Speaking to an audience of 300 students and members of the public, Gaylene Preston introduced the event by giving her thanks to UNA-UK for hosting the event and made reference to UNA-UK's appearance in the film.

Following the screening, UNA-UK’s Chairman, Lord Wood of Anfield, chaired a Q&A session with Ms Clark and Ms Preston. Many of the audience's questions touched on the issue of female representation in senior roles at the UN along with the need for greater transparency in UN processes. Ms Clark urged women to continue to break down barriers in the quest for gender equality: "we have to keep fighting".

Commenting on the selection process of the UN Secretary-General, Ms Clark suggested that South America will now have a strong case to produce the next UN chief. 

On UN effectiveness, Ms Clark challenged the UN’s response to the situation in Yemen, stating that "yes there’s a UN Special Envoy. Is there any action? No". Ms Clark made mention of the UN Secretary-General's recent development reforms and remarked that she would have focused more attention on reforming the UN's peace and security pillar rather than on development.

In response to the question "what are you doing now?", Ms Clark replied "I'm enjoying myself!". 

Responses on social media

UNA-UK's members and supporters tweeted their appreciation for the opportunity to hear from Ms Clark and Ms Preston on Twitter. 

@mindfulcorner1: “Insightful Q&A & outstanding film - highly recomm, also showing tomorrow @ genesis cinema! Huge thanks to the brilliant speakers, @UNAUK & @WestminsterMUN for the event!”

@CarlWright_CLGF: “Enjoyed @HelenClarkNZ movie showing #UN SG voting; @UNA must continue campaign UN transparency gender equality @CLGF_News

@sijuwadeade: "My year with Helen" tonight's screening was inspiringly awesome. Great story of Resilience audaciously told by a woman filmmaker, Gaylene Preston. Viewing one more time tomorrow 6:30 at Genesis Cinema Whitechapel.  #womenempowerment #womendevelopment

@UWSU_Labour: “Great to hear from @HelenClarkNZ, former Labour PM of New Zealand and head of UNDP and Gaylene Preston, director of My Year with Helen on issues of gender equality in the UN and the world political system. Thanks to @WestminsterMUN, @UNAUK, and @DPIRWestminster for organising!”

@WestminsterMUN: Thanks to @HelenClarkNZ and Gaylene Preston for the great answers and @UNAUK and @DPIRWestminster for supporting us in hosting this amazing screening and to all of you for being there

@ClareGollop: Powerful messages of resilience & determination to transform the UN in every moment of Gaylene Prestons #MyYearWithHelen. Thank you @UNAUK @HelenClarkNZ : breaking barriers, leading transparency, & inspiring female leaders worldwide! #She4SG @TheGlassLift


Photo: Panel discussion with Helen Clark, Gaylene Preston and Lord Wood/Laurel Hart