A scathing attack on the Donald Trump-led United States government’s financial cuts to the United Nations has been launched by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.
The former head of the UN Development Programme was speaking on a panel of high-profile women at a major geopolitical conference in India.
The Raisina Dialogue is a three-day conference in New Delhi discussing foreign affairs issues in the Indo-Pacific region, attended by people from over 100 countries.
It comes at a time when there is heightened tension over the US-Iran relationship and India is facing major protests over some of its domestic policies.
Miss Clark has spoken on a number of panels. Talking about how young women need role models to ensure they could one day become leaders, she said organisations like the UN also need to lead the way.
The Trump government has slashed funds to a number of UN programmes, including those that provide sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries.
“The United Nations is under attack,” Miss Clark said. “The people doing it are not sympathetic to women’s rights agendas.” She didn’t name President Trump.
“Women need to see the United Nations as an important place for hearing about the rights we’ve established. A weak UN is not good for women.”
The rights women have won over the past 25 years are now facing the threat of being eroded, she said.
But she pleaded with all nations to look to New Zealand to see women in power, given we’ve had three women prime ministers in 25 years.
“We need to tell young women no door is closed. Even if sometimes they are ... seeing is believing.”
Earlier, over 1000 people packed a standing room only hall to hear from Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
He also lashed out at the US government, but for a very different reason.
He confirmed Iran had arrested several people over the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176 people. Protests have erupted in Tehran as some accused the government of a cover up over the downing. Celebrities and journalists have spoken out against the slowness from the government in admitting Iran’s fault - it took it three days to admit responsibility.
It comes at a time of heightened tensions, following the US killing of a revered Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani.
At Raisina, Zarif launched a tirade of abuse aimed at US President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
He said the country had a “very serious problem in thinking” about the region and it was based on “ignorance and arrogance”, which will eventually lead to mayhem in the region.
On the killing of Soleimani, the Minister said the only people celebrating were ISIS, and Trump and Pompeo.
“You call them strange bedfellows, not really,” he said, to some laughter.
“Daesh (ISIS) just won a mighty battle”.
He again defended Iran’s missile strikes against US targets in Iraq following the killing and said Iran was acting in self defence following an unprovoked attack by the US.
A panel had earlier discussed street protests around the world, including in Iran, Hong Kong and India and what those meant for the world at an unstable time.
On the protests, Zarif claimed they were largely protesting Soleimani’s killing, not the action of the Iranian government.
Today, New Zealand’s deputy head of Navy, Commodore Melissa Ross, will appear on a panel discussing how to strengthen democracy in the Indo-Pacific and what New Zealand’s role in that is.
Katie Bradford is in New Delhi thanks to the Asia New Zealand Foundation.