Human Interest

New Zealand awards Jacinda Ardern one of its highest honors

Sydney, Australia, June 5 (EFE).- New Zealand on Monday awarded former prime minister Jacinda Ardern one of the country’s highest honors for her leadership in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack and through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ardern, who governed her country from September 2017 until her resignation in January, was named a Dame Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the state, which is the second most important recognition in the country after the Order of New Zealand.

The former leader was one of the 182 recipients named in the King’s Birthday and Coronation Honors list, although she was the only one made a Dame or Knight Grand Companion.

Dame Jacinda, who was named by Fortune magazine in 2021 as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders and who has publicly stated in the past that she hopes her country will become a republic, said in a statement reported by public broadcaster Radio New Zealand that she was hesitant to accept the recognition.

“I was in two minds about accepting this acknowledgment. So many of the things we went through as a nation over the last five years were about all of us rather than one individual,” Ardern said.

“But I have heard that said by so many Kiwis who I have encouraged to accept an honor over the years. And so for me this a way to say thank you — to my family, to my colleagues, and to the people who supported me to take on the most challenging and rewarding role of my life.”

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said “Ardern is recognized for her service to New Zealand during some of the greatest challenges our country has faced in modern times.”

The official citation noted that Ardern banned most semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles within a month of the white supremacist attack on two mosques in the city of Christchurch, which killed 51 Muslims.

Likewise, the citation praised her government’s mitigation measures against Covid-19, which included lockdowns even with just a few cases and the closure of international borders to prevent the spread of the virus, “positioning New Zealand as having one of the lowest Covid-19 related death rates in the Western world.”

Her government, viewed worldwide as setting an example against Covid-19, was also recognized for its extensive efforts to vaccinate the majority of the more than 5 million people in the country, and to alleviate child poverty, among other achievements, according to the citation.

Ardern, who in 2017 and at 37 years old became the world’s youngest leader, has also been recognized worldwide for her empathy while leading the response to the Christchurch terror attack, the pandemic and promoting a “wellbeing budget.”

She announced her shock resignation in mid-January saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” to continue leading the country, and at the beginning of April she gave her final speech in parliament vindicating her empathetic leadership style.

Since her departure from politics, Ardern, now 42, has assumed the honorary positions of special envoy for the Christchurch Call and member of the Board of Trustees of the Earthshot Prize, which was founded by Britain’s Prince William and awards champions in the fight against climate change.

In April, Ardern announced that she would temporarily join Harvard University to take up two fellowships in public leadership as well as another studying ways to improve content standards and platform accountability for extremist content online, and examining artificial intelligence governance and algorithmic harms. EFE


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