UN's new human rights chief says tackling racism, protecting civilians are key goals

12 September 2002
Sergio Vieira de Mello

The new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, started his four-year term today in Geneva, saying that he wanted to focus on the protection of civilian populations in conflict as well as the fight against racism and promotion of women's rights.

"Those are the three huge chapters that require a lot of attention, in addition to all the geographic hot spots that are well known," Mr. Vieira de Mello told reporters while attending the flag-raising ceremony at the UN's headquarters in Geneva for the newest Member State - Switzerland.

Mr. Vieira de Mello succeeds Mary Robinson, who served five years as the UN official with principal responsibility for the Organization's human rights activities, under the direction and authority of the Secretary-General and within the framework of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights.

The post was created by the General Assembly in the wake of the 1993 UN Conference on Human Rights, with José Ayala-Lasso - a key negotiator in that process - becoming the first person to occupy the office on 5 April 1994.


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