Open letter: Appointment of next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 

In International Advocacy Program, United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

Mr António Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations
United Nations Headquarters, New York 

Dear Secretary-General, 

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 (FORUM-ASIA) 
  10. Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ) 11. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies 
  11. Center for Economic and Social Rights 
  12. Center for International Environmental Law 
  13. Center for Reproductive Rights 
  14. Centre for Civil and Political Rights 
  15. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) 
  16. Child Rights Connect 
  17. Citizen, Democracy and Accountability 
  18. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation 
  19. Colombian Commission of Jurists 
  20. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative 
  21. Conectas Direitos Humanos 
  22. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) 24. Dominican Leadership Conference 
  23. Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM) 
  24. Environmental Defender Law Center 
  25. Franciscans International 
  26. Front Line Defenders 
  27. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect 
  28. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 
  29. Gulf Centre for Human Rights 
  30. Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation 
  31. Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights 
  32. HIV Legal Network 
  33. Human Rights Activists in Iran 
  34. Human Rights House Foundation 
  35. Human Rights Law Centre 
  36. Human Rights Watch 
  37. ILGA World (The International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association) 40. Impact Iran 
  38. Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) 
  39. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) 
  40. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) 
  41. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) 
  42. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 
  43. Iran Human Rights
  44. JASS/Just Associates 
  45. Just Fair 
  46. Kenya Human Rights Commission 
  47. Kurdistan Human Rights Association-Geneva (KMMK-G) 
  48. Law & Society Trust Sri Lanka 
  49. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada 
  50. Make Mothers Matter (MMM) 
  51. MINBYUN – Lawyers for a Democratic Society 
  52. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) 
  53. Open Society Foundations 
  54. Plan International 
  55. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos, PROVEA 59. Siamak Pourzand Foundation 
  56. United Nations Association – UK 
  57. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) 62. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) 
  58. World Uyghur Congress

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