The United Nations General Assembly appointed former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as the new UN high commissioner for human rights, UN Secretary General António Guterres announced on August 10, adding that Bachelet takes office "at a time of grave consequence for human rights."
"Hatred and inequality are on the rise. Respect for international humanitarian and human rights law is on the decline," said the UN chief at a press conference.
"To navigate these currents, we need a strong advocate for all human rights--civil, political, economic, social and cultural," said Guterres. "We need a person who can ensure the integrity of the indispensable human rights mechanisms of the United Nations."
"Ms. Bachelet has been as formidable a figure in her native Chile as she has at the United Nations," he continued. "At home, she has known the heights and the depths, as the first woman to serve as the country's president, but also as a survivor of the brutality by the authorities targeting her and her family many decades ago." Bachelet served two terms as president of Chile from 2006-2010 and 2014-2018 but had also been imprisoned and tortured under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s.
Guterres said she was a pioneer as the first leader of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women from 2010-2013, giving the ground-breaking entity "a new dynamic and inspiring start."
The UN chief said Bachelet is "perfectly suited" for the key post. “I could not think of a better choice," he said, in this year which marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"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,” he added.
After the announcement, Bachelet posted on her Twitter account that she was "deeply humbled and honored" to have been entrusted with "this important task."
She will replace Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, and her four-year term will run from September 1, 2018 until August 31, 2022.
Guterres also expressed "deep gratitude" to al-Hussein for his leadership, passion, courage and skill throughout his term.
Bachelet will become the seventh UN high commissioner for human rights since the office was created in 1993. The high commissioner is the principal official who speaks out for human rights across the entire UN system, strengthening human rights mechanisms; enhancing equality; fighting discrimination in all its forms; strengthening accountability and the rule of law; widening the democratic space and protecting the most vulnerable from all forms of human rights abuse.
(Reporting from New York)
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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