The General Assembly today approved the nomination of Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, as the next United Nations human rights chief for a four‑year term, beginning on 1 September 2018.
The decision was taken without a vote, following the proposal by UN Secretary‑General António Guterres to appoint Ms. Bachelet as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ms. Bachelet will replace Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan, whose term ends on 31 August.
Ms. Bachelet was the first woman to be elected to Chile’s highest office, serving as President, first from 2006 to 2010, and then from 2014 to 2018. In between, she served as the first Executive Director of the newly created United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women).
Following the Assembly decision, several delegations delivered congratulatory remarks.
Chile’s delegate said Ms. Bachelet’s appointment is critically important as this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and at a time when human rights norms face challenges. He stressed the need for the international community to uphold human rights.
Iran’s delegate asked Ms. Bachelet to lead her office in accordance of relevant resolutions, making it clear that human rights is “not a tool for powerful countries to use against their dislikes” and to address politicization and polarization stemming from such practices.
Several delegations stressed the need to support Ms. Bachelet’s office both financially and politically.
The representative of the United States said her country’s exit from the Human Rights Council was not a withdrawal from its commitment to advance human rights. “It is incumbent on the Secretary‑General’s choice, Ms. Bachelet, to avoid the failures of the UN human rights system in the past.”
She noted that the Council consistently failed to address extreme human rights abuses in Venezuela and Cuba in particular and that the United Nations system failed to address major human rights crises in Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere, or stop its chronic, disproportionate obsession with Israel.
Cuba’s delegate said that the United States used today’s meeting as an opportunity to “twist reality”. Cuba has signed on to more human rights treaties than the United States. She described how the United States violates human rights, a view which was also shared by the representative of Venezuela, who said that country has no moral right to preach.
Also speaking today were the delegations of Madagascar (on behalf of the African States), Solomon Islands (on behalf of the Asia‑Pacific States), Estonia (on behalf of the Eastern European States), Argentina (on behalf of Latin American and Caribbean States), New Zealand (also speaking for Australia and Canada), European Union, United Kingdom and Switzerland.
Exercising the right of reply were Cuba, Venezuela and the United States.
The General Assembly will next meet at a date and time to be determined.