Human Rights

UN appoints new human rights chief


The UN General Assembly in New York, has appointed former Chilean President, Ms Michelle Bachelet, as its High Commissioner for Human Rights. The appointment takes effect from Sept. 1, 2018.

Bachelet’s appointment followed her nomination by the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to succeed outgoing Commissioner, Zeid Al Hussein, who assumed duty in September, 2014 and would bow out Aug. 31.

Minutes after she was voted in, Guterres told reporters that he was delighted by the news of her official appointment, saying “Bachelet has been as formidable a figure in her native Chile as she has at the United Nations”.

Guterres highlighted Bachelet’s role as the first leader of UN Women, between 2010 and 2013, saying that she gave “that new entity a dynamic and inspiring start”.

He referred to her remarkable career as “the first woman to serve as the country’s President, and also as a survivor of brutality by the authorities targeting her and her family, many decades ago”.

“She has lived under the darkness of dictatorship.

“As a physician, she knows the trials of people thirsting for health and yearning to enjoy other vital economic and social rights. And, she knows the responsibilities of both national and global leadership”.

Following the appointment, Bacheret, who would be the seventh High Commissioner since the office was created in 1993, said she was “deeply humbled and honoured to have been entrusted with this important task”.

Guterres said as this year marked the 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a time when “hatred and inequality are on the rise,” it was vital to have a “strong advocate for all human rights”, adding that he could not think of a better choice.

“Michelle Bachelet brings unique experience to the United Nations and to all of us, and is strongly committed to keeping human rights at the forefront of the work of the United Nations.

“She has my full confidence and support, and I ask all member-states and our partners to extend to her their support,” the Secretary-General said.

Speaking about Bachelet’s predecessor, Guterres said Zeid served with “leadership, passion, courage and skill” for the past four years.

The UN chief paid special tribute to Zeid, who is stepping down after one term as the key UN voice on global human rights, saying “I wish to express my deep gratitude to my good colleague and friend’’.

Zeid reacted in a statement on Friday that Bacheret “has all the attributes – courage, perseverance, passion and a deep commitment to human rights – to make her a successful High Commissioner”.

He added that the UN Human Rights Office “looks forward to welcoming her and working under her leadership for the promotion and protection of all human rights, for everyone, everywhere”.

The High Commissioner is the principal official who speaks out for human rights across the UN system, strengthening human rights mechanisms and enhancing equality.

The official also fights discrimination in all its forms, strengthening accountability and the rule of law, and widening the democratic space and protecting the most vulnerable from all forms of human rights abuse.

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