UNITED NATIONS – The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, praised Michelle Bachelet on Friday as having been a “formidable figure” both during her term as president of Chile and during her role as the first leader of UN Women.
Bachelet will return to the UN starting Sept. 1, after being confirmed by the General Assembly as the new High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Guterres said he was “delighted” by the news of Bachelet’s official appointment.
“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 brutality by the authorities targeting her and her family many decades ago,” the secretary general said in a statement.
Guterres recalled that Bachelet “was also a pioneer here at the United Nations – the first leader of UN Women, giving that new entity a dynamic and inspiring start.”
“Now, she takes on a role for which she is perfectly suited. In this year in which we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, I could not think of a better choice,” he said.
Guterres explained that Bachelet will take office at a difficult moment for human rights, at a time when “hatred and inequality are on the rise,” when “respect for international humanitarian and human rights law is on the decline,” and when “press freedoms are under pressure.”
“To navigate these currents, we need a strong advocate for all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural,” he said.
Guterres also recalled that Bachelet “has lived under the darkness of dictatorship,” adding that, as a physician, “she knows the trials of people thirsting for health and yearning to enjoy other vital economic and social rights,” while understanding the “responsibilities of both national and global leadership.”