Jacinda Ardern received a Dame Award for service to New Zealand on Monday just four months after ending her term as prime minister, during which she became the global face of a compassionate brand of liberal politics.
The accolade – a Dame Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit – is the country’s second highest and is given as part of the annual tradition of honoring the King for his birthday holiday. Honorees are usually chosen by the Prime Minister and approved by the British monarch, King Charles III, who is New Zealand’s head of state.
Ms Ardern said she was “humbled” by the award and had initially considered declining it.
“Many of the things we’ve experienced as a nation in the last five years have been more about all of us than one person,” he said in a statement, adding, “For me, this is my way of saying thank you – to my family, my colleagues and the people who have supported me in taking on the most challenging and rewarding role of my life.
The former prime minister, who now styles herself Dame Jacinda Ardern, is recognized for her role in the country’s response to the deadly terrorist attacks in the city of Christchurch in March 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic — “some of the greatest challenges our country has faced in modern times,” according to her successor, Chris Hipkins. Ms Ardern, he said, had demonstrated an “absolute” commitment to New Zealand.
In January, Mrs Ardern, 42, said she would leave office, a surprise announcement that came nine months before the general election. He cited fatigue as the reason, saying he no longer had the “full tank plus some reserve” needed for the role. The decision comes as her centre-left Labor Party struggles in the polls.
After coming down, Ms. Ardern continues to work in an unpaid capacity on the New Zealand government’s response to online extremism and terrorism. He is also a board member of Prince William’s EarthShot Environmental Prize and will start two fellowships at Harvard University later this year.
Ms Ardern joins her predecessors – Sir Bill English and Sir John Key – as Members of the Order of Merit.
The country’s highest honour, the Order of New Zealand, was presented to Queen Camilla on Monday in keeping with tradition in New Zealand. Members of that order, which is limited to 20 recipients, include two former prime ministers, Helen Clark and Jim Bolger.