Helen Clark on MDGs, UN reform and Nelson Mandela

    Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Program. Photo by: Catching Magic / CC BY

    On a scale of 1 to 10, how does the face of the United Nations’ largest development agency rank the world’s performance on the Millennium Development Goals?

    “7.5/10 to date!” UNDP Admninistrator Helen Clark wrote in an “Ask Me Anything” chat Monday (Feb. 25) on Reddit. “But we can achieve more in the last 1,000 days!!!!”

    Clark was on Reddit to answer questions relating to the MDGs, whose 1,000-day countdown starts April 5. During the chat, she also shared some of her personal quotes, inspirations and advice to people interested in development work. 

    Clark said the MDGs have largely been a success, but achieving all of them by 2015 would require funding, strong leadership and “champions.” She noted that progress on the MDGs differ “hugely” per country, and when it comes to fragile states, it’s “very hard” to track progress on the MDGs or development in general.

    “Getting international buy in to the MDGs” was the United Nations’ greatest success with the goals, she said.

    On the post-2015 agenda, Clark said the world “should not lose sight of the unfinished MDG business while also taking up issues which weren’t fully incorporated in the MDGs we currently have.”

    Here are some other interesting tidbits from the Q&A:

    Clark’s favorite inspirational quote: “Never look back. Move on. Aim high. Etc.”

    Goal that the international community can accomplish “realistically” in the next five years: “Surely every child can be enrolled in school! … but then we also need to focus on completing school and on the quality of education.”

    How to make more people aware of the MDGs and the post-2015 agenda: “We have to keep promoting achievement of and knowledge of the MDGs  and of the process being followed in developing the post-2015 agenda.”

    On the next U.N. secretary-general being a woman: “Let’s hope that the glass ceiling can be broken one day!”

    Advice to those interested in jobs in international development: “Apply widely; be prepared to work in places off the beaten track.”

    “Biggest change” in lifestyle between living in New Zealand and the United States: “The difference between commuting 400 miles to work from Auckland to Wellington  and being able to walk from home to work in NY!”

    Inspiring politician: “There can only be one answer - Nelson Mandela.”

    Necessary reforms at the United Nations: “It’s important for the U.N. development system to deliver in a co-ordinated and coherent way  this is a work in progress.”

    Clark will participate in a global conference on the MDGs Feb. 27-28. The event, which will discuss some of the MDG breakthroughs and challenges as well as the “emerging” post-2015 agenda, will take place in Bogota, Colombia.

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    About the author

    • Jenny Lei Ravelo

      Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.