Helen Clark, one of the frontrunners to succeed Ban Ki-moon as UN secretary general, has said there were legitimate criticisms of the way the UN dealt with Sri Lankan abuses during the civil war with the LTTE.
Clark, the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand is now the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Her tough approach to management efficiency and cutting budgets has won her plaudits from the US administration, the UN’s main funder, but prompted grumbling from within the institution, the Guardian reported on Thursday.
Foreign Policy magazine recently carried a probe into Clark’s management style that reported widespread disgruntlement among staff.
The article talked of a “trail of embittered peers and subordinates” in UNDP and told the story of an official who was allegedly driven out by Clark in retaliation for the employee’s participation in a critical review of the agency’s response to human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.
She has denied that her reorganisation of UNDP had been an internal disaster. She said the number of employment tribunals brought by individuals was “tiny, a handful”.
Clark also dismissed the claims about the allegedly retaliatory treatment of the official: “I have no evidence of that. There were legitimate criticisms of the way the UN dealt with Sri Lankan abuses during the civil war with the Tamil Tigers, but the conflict was officially declared over a month after I started at the helm of UNDP. It was before my time” she told the Guardian.
Clark said the UN was struggling over global security. “The UN is seen to be not doing so well on the peace and security front,” she said.
Clark said that the UN’s archaic bureaucratic structure was proving a drag on its ability to help in the fight against extremist attacks. “We have the tools from the middle of the last century to fight today’s battles, and we can do better than that.”
She said: “If we are going to effectively fight violent extremism it’s not just intelligence and security cooperation that’s important, it’s addressing the root causes. That takes you into development, human rights, peace-building: how can we get them to work in harmony to address these issues?”