The post of High Commissioner should be filled by someone of high moral standing and personal integrity, and who is independent and impartial and possesses competency and expertise in the field of human rights. It requires a human rights champion who is courageous and principled.
A joint open letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres from 63 individuals and organizations has urged Guterres to choose a candidate with commitment and track-record for appointment to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, following Michelle Bachelet’s departure. Bachelet’s mandate is due to end on 31 August 2022.
The signatories say that the role of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is key for the implementation of the Call to Action for Human Rights and Our Common Agenda, particularly at this point of time, when human rights standards and mechanisms face enormous pressure from powerful governments.
“The post of High Commissioner for Human Rights is critical to the promotion and protection of human rights globally, particularly at a time when human rights standards and mechanisms face enormous pressure from powerful governments,” the letter reads.
The organisations and individuals who represent and work closely with human rights defenders, victims of violations and affected communities, as well as with the UN say that the position should be filled by someone of “high moral standing and personal integrity, and who is independent and impartial and possesses competency and expertise in the field of human rights.”
“It requires a human rights champion who is courageous and principled. Your nominee should have a proven record of effective public advocacy, as well as demonstrated experience working with defenders and victims of violations.”
Open, transparent selection process
The letter from the human rights champions says that the post if UN High Commissioner for Human Rights requires a strong commitment to addressing discrimination, inequality, oppression and injustice in all its forms, “as well as combating impunity and pursuing redress and accountability for all human rights violations and abuses, including those committed by the most powerful governments.”
“The High Commissioner’s role is to be the world’s leading human rights advocate, as distinct from the role of a diplomat or political envoy,” their letter says, adding, “Demonstrating solidarity with victims and publicly calling out abuses should take precedence over friendly dialogue with governments.”
Stressing that the process of nominating the next High Commissioner is critical to identifying the most qualified candidate and ensuring the credibility of their appointment, the letter says, “This process should be open, transparent and merit-based. It should involve wide and meaningful consultation with independent human rights organisations and human rights defenders.”
“Human rights are primary values, legal obligations, and indispensable for peace, security and sustainable development,” the letter argues. “It is vital that the next High Commissioner be a compelling leader for human rights within the UN system and throughout the world.”
The authors of the letter have urged Guterres to defend the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner, including through adequate resourcing.