New Zealand has awarded former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern one of the country’s highest honours, making her a Dame for her service during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Christchurch terror attacks. Ardern accepted the honour but said she had felt conflicted about doing so. “I was in two minds about accepting this acknowledgment,” she said. “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.” The former leader’s tenure was marked by a series of national and international crises, including the Christchurch terror attacks in which 50 Muslims were killed, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw New Zealand achieve very high rates of vaccination and some of the lowest excess death rates in the world.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the recognition was for Ardern’s leadership during these “periods of intense challenge.” “Dame Jacinda Ardern is recognized for her service to New Zealand during some of the greatest challenges our country has faced in modern times,” Hipkins said. “Leading New Zealand’s response to the 2019 terrorist attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic represented periods of intense challenge for our 40th prime minister, during which I saw first-hand that her commitment to New Zealand remained absolute.”
Since her surprise resignation in January, Ardern has kept a relatively low public profile. She has accepted a role as special envoy to the prime minister to continue work on responses to online extremism and terrorism; joined the board of Prince William’s Earthshot prize, which awards responses to environmental crises; and accepted fellowships to Harvard University.