UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres nominated former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as the world body’s next human rights commissioner, diplomatic sources told EFE on Wednesday.
The appointment will have to be approved by the General Assembly, where all 193 members of the organization have a voice.
On Wednesday afternoon, diplomatic officials announced and the United Nations later officially confirmed that Bachelet is Guterres’s pick to replace Jordan’s Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein, who has held the post of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights since 2014 and whose mandate ends at the end of August.
After consulting with regional groups, Guterres delivered his decision to the General Assembly, whose president – Miroslav Lajcak – called a plenary session to deal with the matter for Friday at 10 am in New York, according to a letter released by Lajcak’s office.
The process of the General Assembly providing approval is traditionally a mere formality, and it is virtually a foregone conclusion that the secretary-general’s proposal will be accepted by acclamation without the need for a vote.
Once confirmed, Bachelet will take the reins of the UN’s huge human rights machinery, which has its headquarters in Geneva.
The NGO Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that Bachelet will take over one of the “most difficult” jobs in the world at a time when human rights are “under attack.”
The former Chilean leader served as the first executive director for UN Women from 2010-2013 and currently heads an international alliance for women’s health, newborns and children.
The UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, is a United Nations entity working for the empowerment of women.
In recent weeks, Bachelet’s name was one of those that had been circulating as a replacement for Zeid along with that of Switzerland’s Nils Melzer, who is currently the UN’s special rapporteur on torture.
Zeid has stood out in the post for taking a very critical tone with governments and leaders around the world that – in his judgment – are violating the rights of their citizens and last December he announced that he would not run for a second four-year term because he did not want to make political concessions to obtain the post.
Israel, the Philippines and Hungary – for instance – have all criticized Zeid for his stance, which also has included harsh criticism of US President Donald Trump and European leaders who use xenophobic discourse against immigrants.
Bachelet served as president of Chile from 2006-2010 and again between 2014-March 2018.