Friday, December 2, 2011

Helen Clark

Helen Elizabeth Clark, ONZ (born 26 February 1950) is a New Zealand political figure who was the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand for three consecutive terms from 1999 to 2008. She has been Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the third-highest UN position, since 2009.

Clark was first elected as MP for the Mount Albert electorate in 1981, and she led the Labour Party from 1993 until it lost the 2008 general election. As Prime Minister from 1999 to 2008, she is the fifth longest serving person to hold that office. She resigned from Parliament in April 2009 to take up the post of Administrator of the UNDP. Forbes magazine ranked her 20th most powerful woman in the world in 2006.

Early Life
Clark was the eldest of four daughters of a farming family at Te Pahu in the Waikato Region. Her mother, Margaret McMurray, of Irish birth, was a primary school teacher. Her father, George, was a farmer. Clark studied at Te Pahu Primary School, at Epsom Girls' Grammar School in Auckland and at the University of Auckland, where she majored in politics and graduated with an MA (Honours) in 1974. Her thesis focused on rural political behaviour and representation.

As a teenager Clark became politically active, protesting against the Vietnam War and campaigning against foreign military bases in New Zealand. She has declared herself agnostic.

In 1971 Clark assisted Labour candidates to the Auckland City Council. Clark was a junior lecturer in political studies at the University of Auckland from 1973 to 1975. In 1974 she sought the nomination for the Auckland Central electorate, but lost to Richard Prebble. She instead stood for the Piako, a National safe seat. Clark studied abroad on a University Grants Committee post-graduate scholarship in 1976, and then lectured in political studies at Auckland again while undertaking her PhD (which she never completed) from 1977 until her election to Parliament in 1981 (her father supported the National Party that election).

She married sociologist Peter Davis, her partner of five years at that time, shortly before that election (under pressure from some members of the New Zealand Labour Party to marry despite her own feelings about marriage – her biography reports that she cried throughout the ceremony, although she attributes that to a headache). Dr Davis currently[update] is a professor in medical sociology and heads the Sociology Department at the University of Auckland.

Clark has worked actively in the New Zealand Labour Party for most of her life. She served as a member of the Party's New Zealand executive from 1978 until September 1988 and again from April 1989. She chaired the University of Auckland Princes Street branch of the Labour Party during her studies, becoming active alongside future Labour Party politicians including Richard Prebble, David Caygill, Margaret Wilson, and Richard Northey. Clark held the positions of president of the Labour Youth Council, executive member of the Party's Auckland Regional Council, secretary of the Labour Women's Council and member of the Policy Council.

She represented the New Zealand Labour Party at the congresses of the Socialist International and of the Socialist International Women in 1976, 1978, 1983 and 1986, at an Asia-Pacific Socialist Organisation Conference held in Sydney in 1981, and at the Socialist International Party Leaders' Meeting in Sydney in 1991.

The government of the Solomon Islands awarded Clark (together with John Howard) the Star of the Solomon Islands in 2005 in recognition of New Zealand's role in restoring law and order in the Solomon Islands. This award allows her to use the post-nominal letters "SSI".

In January 2008 Clark won the United Nations Environment Programme Champions of the Earth award in recognition of the government’s promotion of sustainability initiatives.

Clark is an Honorary Member of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

Clark was the patron of the New Zealand Rugby League between 2002 and 2011 and has served as the patron of the Mt Albert Lions rugby league club for over 20 years.

In January 2009, two months after losing office, Clark was voted Greatest Living New Zealander in an opt-in website poll run by the New Zealand Herald. In a close race she received 25 percent of the vote, ahead of Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata at 21 percent. Current Prime Minister John Key said he was not surprised by the poll, saying "... she is well thought of as a New Zealand Prime Minister."

In April 2009 she was awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degree by University of Auckland.

She was awarded New Zealand's top honour, the Order of New Zealand, in 2009.

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