Geneva, Switzerland

27 June 2014

Secretary-General's message to event honouring Ms. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [delivered by Mr. Michael Moller, Acting Director-General, United Nations Office at Geneva]

It is a great pleasure to convey greetings to all who have gathered for this event honouring a close colleague, friend and global champion of justice and equality for all.

Navi Pillay has been an extraordinary High Commissioner for Human Rights.  She has served as a dependable, even-handed and effective advocate for the world’s most vulnerable people.  Her clear voice, wisdom and sound sense of balance have guided her Office, placed human rights at the centre of the UN family and extended the reach of human rights around the world.

As someone who came of age under the apartheid regime in South Africa, Navi Pillay saw discrimination up close.  Her skin colour denied her many opportunities.  But her tremendous determination and sharp mind helped her to become a lawyer, and then a judge.  She never forgot how many others like her never made it up that fragile ladder.  That sense of injustice planted the seeds of her strong commitment to human rights, and is a big part of what drives her to help others.

Navi Pillay has been an inspiration to everyone who has had the pleasure of working with her.  She has significantly strengthened OHCHR’s field presence, and responded quickly and nimbly to crises.  She always insisted on painstaking attention to facts, and shared her deep knowledge widely and generously.  Her deft political skill piloted her team through many perilous waters.  And she has been an indispensable partner in advancing the Rights Up Front initiative, which seeks to strengthen our response to threats of serious human rights violations.

Navi Pillay's term as High Commissioner for Human Rights will end in eight weeks, but what she has built will last for many years.  Navi Pillay, thank you for your service as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  You have made an unforgettable contribution.