Carleton University today conferred a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand, “in recognition of her role as an outstanding international leader committed to the values of equality and social empowerment.”
Clark was honoured during Carleton’s Spring Convocation. About 3,500 students are receiving their degrees over the course of four days.
“Carleton University has given those graduating today the foundation of a good education – from which each of you can proceed with confidence to the next stages of your lives,” Clark said during her address. “And as you do, I urge you to focus, not only on what will advance your own careers, but also on how you can contribute back into the communities of which you’re a part and more broadly into being a force for building a better world.”
Clark was the 37th prime minister of New Zealand for three consecutive terms from 1999 to 2008 and the country’s first elected woman leader. Throughout her time as prime minister and as a member of parliament for more than 27 years, she was widely engaged in policy development and advocacy across international, economic, social, environmental and cultural spheres. Clark advocated strongly for New Zealand’s comprehensive program on sustainability and climate change and was an active leader in the country’s foreign relations, engaging with a wide range of international issues.
Clark became the first female administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 2009 and served two terms until she left in 2017. During her tenure, the UNDP was ranked the most transparent global development organization. Simultaneously, Clark was chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), a committee consisting of all UN funds, programs, agencies and departments working on developmental issues. She has also taught political studies at the University of Auckland.
Today, Clark continues to be a strong voice for sustainable development, climate action, gender equality and women’s leadership, peace and justice, and action on non-communicable diseases, as well as HIV/AIDS.
“Demonstrating skills that astonished even her peers, Ms. Clark set about stabilizing the government of New Zealand by striking coalitions – bringing together partners that no one thought possible,” said Diana Idibe, vice-president (Student Services) of the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA). “Then she turned to business. Her government set the goal of making New Zealand the first ecologically sustainable nation, increased the minimum wage by five per cent, introduced interest-free loans for students, overhauled the tax system, introduced paid parental leave, and promoted a vibrant and healthy economy.”
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