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UN Secretary-General should hold transparent and consultative process to pick next UN Rights chief

In an open letter to the UN Secretary-General, NGOs insist that 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.

22 June 2022

Dear Secretary-General,

Re: Appointment of next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

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. This role is key for the implementation of the Call to Action for Human Rights and Our Common Agenda.

The undersigned organisations represent and work closely with human rights defenders, victims of violations and affected communities, as well as with the UN. In this capacity, we write to you regarding the process for appointing the next High Commissioner, as well as the key qualifications and qualities required for the position.

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. Your nominee should have a proven record of effective public advocacy, as well as demonstrated experience working with defenders and victims of violations. The post 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. Demonstrating solidarity with victims and publicly calling out abuses should take precedence over friendly dialogue with governments.

The process of nominating the next High Commissioner is critical to identifying the most qualified candidate and ensuring the credibility of their appointment. 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. Given that High Commissioner Bachelet’s mandate will end on 31 August 2022, it is imperative that this process move quickly.

Human rights are primary values, legal obligations, and indispensable for peace, security and sustainable development. It is vital that the next High Commissioner be a compelling leader for human rights within the UN system and throughout the world. In addition to identifying an outstanding candidate through a consultative process, we urge you to vigorously defend the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner, including through adequate resourcing. For our part, we pledge to support the High Commissioner and the Office of the High Commissioner in their principled and good faith efforts to promote and protect human rights worldwide.

We look forward to your response and to meaningful civil society engagement with this process.

Yours faithfully,

1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran

2. Adalah The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

3. Advocates for International Development

4. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

5. All Human Rights for All in Iran

6. Amnesty International

7. Arab NGO Network for Development

8. ARTICLE 19

9. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUMASIA)

10. Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ)

11. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

12. Center for Economic and Social Rights

13. Center for International Environmental Law

14. Center for Reproductive Rights

15. Centre for Civil and Political Rights

16. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)

17. Child Rights Connect

18. Citizen, Democracy and Accountability

19. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

20. Colombian Commission of Jurists

21. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

22. Conectas Direitos Humanos

23. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

24. Dominican Leadership Conference

25. Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM)

26. Environmental Defender Law Center

27. Franciscans International

28. Front Line Defenders

29. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

30. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

31. Gulf Centre for Human Rights

32. Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation

33. Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights

34. HIV Legal Network

35. Human Rights Activists in Iran

36. Human Rights House Foundation

37. Human Rights Law Centre

38. Human Rights Watch

39. ILGA World (The International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association)

40. Impact Iran

41. Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)

42. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)

43. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

44. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

45. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

46. Iran Human Rights
47. JASS/Just Associates

48. Just Fair

49. Kenya Human Rights Commission

50. Kurdistan Human Rights AssociationGeneva (KMMKG)

51. Law & Society Trust Sri Lanka

52. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

53. Make Mothers Matter (MMM)

54. MINBYUN Lawyers for a Democratic Society

55. Minority Rights Group International (MRG)

56. Open Society Foundations

57. Plan International

58. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos, PROVEA

59. Siamak Pourzand Foundation

60. United Nations Association UK

61. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

62. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

63. World Uyghur Congress

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