Austrian lawyer Volker Türk has been appointed to succeed former two-time Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, it was announced.
Türk's appointment by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meant a diplomatic defeat for the government of Argentine, which had secretly endorsed the candidacy of Federico Villegas Beltrán in a move to capitalize on rivalries stemming from the conflictive global scenario, according to Buenos Aires media reports.
Türk is the eighth High Commissioner to lead the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). He was the Under-Secretary-General for Policy in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where he coordinated global policy work, with a focus on follow-up to the Our Common Agenda report and strategic coordination within the Executive Office.
He ensured coherence in the analysis provided to the Secretary-General and conducts system-wide coordination, including on the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights. Mr. Türk chaired the Deputies Committee and oversaw secretariat support to the Executive Committee and the Senior Management Group, as well as coordinated closely on matters related to the Chief Executives Board, the UN explained.
”Prior to this role, Mr. Türk served as Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. Before joining EOSG, he was Assistant High Commissioner for Protection in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva (2015-2019), with particular responsibilities for the development of the Global Compact on Refugees, it also pointed out in a statement.
Mr. Türk served in key UNHCR headquarter positions, including as Director of the Division of International Protection (2009-2015), Director of Organizational Development and Management (2008-2009); and Chief of Section, Protection Policy and Legal Advice (2000-2004). He also occupied various positions with UNHCR around the world, including as Representative in Malaysia, Assistant Chief of Mission in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, respectively; Regional Protection Co-ordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and in Kuwait, it went on.
Mr. Türk holds a doctorate in international law from the University of Vienna and a Master of Laws degree from the University of Linz, Austria. He is fluent in English and French and has [a] working knowledge of Spanish.”
Türk will succeed Bachelet, who served as High Commissioner from 1 September 2018 through 31 August 2022. Guterres expressed his gratitude for Ms. Bachelet’s “commitment and dedicated service to the United Nations.” During her tenure, which included the COVID-19 pandemic, she focused on reinvigorating social protections, adjusting to working virtually, and expanding human rights monitoring.
Bachelet was under heavy criticism from Washington over abuses against Muslim minorities in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.