In an online chat, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has given her thoughts on Paul Holmes, Flight of the Conchords, Nelson Mandela, New Zealand travel and the UN – but did not want to discuss New Zealand politics.
Ms Clark, who is now the UN Development Programme administrator, answered 54 questions on Reddit for an hour this morning, leading up to her presentation on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Colombia.
Members of the site weren't afraid to actually ask her anything, and many topics were far from her role at the UN.
One person asked her about Paul Holmes’ knighthood, and she admitted that although she isn’t a fan of knighthoods, Holmes deserved one.
“In New Zealand everyone knows I don’t agree with knighthoods – my government abolished them. But I do think the late Paul Holmes was worthy of a top honour.”
When asked which living politician she looks up to most, she said former South African president Nelson Mandela.
“There can only be one answer – Nelson Mandela – an inspiration to all.”
She also shared a motivating quote she uses to help her keep going.
“Never look back. Move on. Aim high.”
Someone asked if Flight of the Conchords members Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement were cool in person, but Ms Clark said she hasn’t met them.
“I guess so,” she said. “Haven’t met them – would be excited to!”
She refused to discuss New Zealand politics, such as the Kim Dotcom saga.
“While you can ask anything – don’t expect me to dive back into Kiwi political debates! Been there! Done that!”
But Ms Clark was happy to say she believed she made a difference in her time as Prime Minister.
“I believe as PM I contributed to making New Zealand a fairer, better place to live in.”
She claimed she experienced sexism in her ascent to Prime Minister.
“I didn’t experience sexism and misogyny during my time as PM – but there was a bit on the way up!”
The public also got an insight into what life is like for the former Prime Minister, who lives and works in New York, compared to New Zealand.
“Biggest change? The difference between commuting 400 miles to work from Auckland to Wellington – and being able to walk from home to work in NY!”
But she said the thing she misses most about New Zealand is her family, “but everyone is only a phone call, text, or email away”.
Ms Clark also ended up giving tourism tips for people wanting to visit New Zealand.
“New Zealanders are very creative people - across the visual, literary, and performing arts. So look out for the theatres, galleries, concert halls.
“As well, the range of the NZ landscape is extraordinary - from a near sub-tropical north to a near sub-Antarctic south. Mountains, coastlines, glaciers, forests - getting out there and enjoying all that is something many Kiwis love to do.”
A number of people asked Ms Clark about how New Zealand is one of the top-ranked countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index and how that can be achieved elsewhere.
“New Zealand is generally right up the top of the transparency/anti-corruption index. That rests on strong institutions and values, a free media, active civil society, and parliamentary scrutiny.”
Ms Clark also demonstrated some of her knowledge of how humanitarian aid should evolve into development.
“In the context of conflict and disaster, people need food, water, shelter, and medicine. But, as soon as possible, early recovery leading to development needs to begin. Building resilience to a future crisis and/or disaster is an agenda humanitarian and development actors can unite around.”
She also talked a lot about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were the focus of the chat. The deadline for achieving the goals is December 31, 2015, so Ms Clark is pushing for people to work together on them.
“Overall the MDGs have been a success, and have energised development around the world.”
She thinks it is possible for all people to one day live at an acceptable standard.
“The aim is for all human beings to live in dignity and have what they need for healthy and fulfilling lives. This is achievable.”