The former New Zealand prime minister one of 10 confirmed candidates to take part in a debate at UN general assembly in New York said it was critical the best person is chosen for the role, regardless of region

Helen Clark, the former New Zealand prime minister who is a candidate for the next secretary general of the UN, pitched for the job at a televised debate at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.

Asked by a moderator if eastern Europe should be getting the secretary general position given it is deemed to be next in line according the UNs process and given the size of New Zealand Clark said talent rather than location should be considered.

My little country is from the South Pacific and its never had a secretary general either, so I really think that given the scale of the challenges our world is facing that we need a global search for the best talent, she said. This is a critical job.

In her opening address she said: We have to get better at preventing conflict and resolving conflict.

I believe the long-term answers lie in building the peaceful and inclusive societies which will talk their differences out, and not fight them out.

But in the short term we have to get a lot better at anticipating those warning signs of what could spill over into serious human rights abuses and conflict.

She also praised refugees, saying that in New Zealand refugees had paid back the countrys hospitality a thousand of times over: They are good people looking for a fresh start.

As well as Clark, nine other candidates took part in the live televised debates on Tuesday, a first for the world body. But attempts to bring unprecedented transparency to the race will not extend to the Security Council selection process.

The other confirmed candidates are: the former UN climate change commissioner, Christiana Figueres, from Costa Rica; Vesna Pusi, from Croatia; Antnio Guterres (Portugal); Susana Malcorra (Argentina); Vuk Jeremic (Serbia); Natalia Gherman (Moldova); Danilo Turk (Slovenia); Igor Luki (Montenegro); Irina Bokova (Bulgaria).

The 193-member general assembly has sought to lift a veil of secrecy that has surrounded the election of the UN chief for the past 70 years by requiring public nominations and holding campaign-style town hall events with each candidate.

That transparency extended to two debates with five candidates in each group in the general assembly on Tuesday, which was broadcast live around the world on the al-Jazeera television network and on the UN website.

Candidates were pressed by the al-Jazeera hosts, and took questions from the audience on issues such as leadership style, climate change, the International Criminal Court, the civil war in Syria and the recent eruption of fighting in South Sudan, where UN peacekeepers are struggling to protect civilians.

However, when the 15-member security council starts informal secret ballots next week to choose a candidate to recommend to the general assembly for election later this year, the results will not be made public.

Council members will be given a ballot for each candidate with the options of encourage, discourage and no opinion.

The council will tally the ballots and inform the nominating states of the results for their candidate, but the public will not know the overall results.

The five nations that hold a veto on the security council the US, Britain, France, Russia and China have to agree on a candidate and there is no requirement for them to pay attention to the popularity of candidates with the general assembly.

The council hopes to agree on a candidate by October, diplomats say.

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Helen Clark pitches for South Pacific to hold UN secretary general position
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