Ad Melkert: Remarks at the Powhiri for Helen Clark

Apr 28, 2009

Tēnā koutou,

I would like to thank everyone for coming here today, in particular the Deputy Secretary-General and all my colleagues in UNDP, as well as colleagues from the New Zealand mission to the UN. And I would like to say a special thank you to Kingi Tuheitia and his colleagues that have travelled so far for this auspicious event. 
In reflecting on the nature of the afternoon’s pōwhiri  (welcoming ceremony),  I learnt that a Dutch navigator, Abel Tasman, was the first European to encounter the Maori many centuries ago.  Not only is it befitting that he has the same nationality as myself but it is also rather apt that we share a keen passion for sailing the waters.  Unfortunately my boat has a long way to go before it reaches the Tasman Sea!

Today we are here to welcome Helen Clark as the new Administrator of United Nations Development Programme.  I first got to know Helen here at the UN in this very building in the '80s we took part in a meeting of the Parliamentarians for Global Action.  As staunch supporters of peace, democracy and human rights we both worked as Parliamentarians in our respective countries to come together under the roof of the UN to find ways to cross borders on issues of a global nature. And this is the very essence of what Helen brings to UNDP.  Her motivation to strive for equality and inclusion in society is at the heart of what the organization does. Like her predecessors – most recently Kemal Derviș and the 6 other Administrators before him - the leadership in UNDP has a strong sense of solidarity with the people we serve in developing countries. This solidarity is so important to make sure that we adopt the right interventions and help bring about the right results.

UNDP is a rich and diverse family of women and men working every day across the five continents of the globe to improve the lives of the poor. All my colleagues here in this room – and those who are not here today based around the world - join me in welcoming you, Helen, to this very special family. The family is a happy one that thrives on creativity and finding solutions to the many development challenges that exist at the country and local levels. I think I can speak for most of my colleagues when I say that they enjoy supporting a leader that has the qualities to chart the way respecting diversity and learning from many experiences of tried and tested solutions.

I am sure that when Abel Tasman saw the shores of New Zealand in the 17th century he probably took heed from the Dutch proverb which says “It is safest sailing within reach of the shore.” Helen, as you find yourself today at the shores of UNDP, I can assure you we are here to help you chart the waters and to make the next few years plain sailing!


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