Michelle Bachelet of Chile, new head of Human Rights

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UN SG, Antonio Guterres, with new Human Rights High Commissionar, Michelle Bachelet. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Michelle Bachelet of Chile has been appointed as the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights by UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.  She will succeed Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan.

Ms. Bachelet ended her second four-year term as President of Chile in March this year, having already held the position between 2006 and 2010.  She was the first woman to be elected to Chile’s highest office.  After her first term, she joined the United Nations as the first Executive Director of the newly established United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).

A long-time human rights champion and ground-breaking leader, Ms. Bachelet is a pediatrician who began her government career as an adviser in the Health Ministry, rising quickly to become the first woman to lead Chile’s Health Ministry in 2000 and Defence Ministry in 2002.

She became involved in Chilean human rights activism in the early 1970s.  Ms. Bachelet and her parents were political prisoners in their country.  Her father, a General in the Air Force died while in prison.  After their release, Michelle Bachelet and her mother spent several years in exile.  She returned to Chile in 1979, finished school and became a pediatrician and public health advocate.