Volker Türk appointed new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
“Mr. Türk has devoted his long and distinguished career to advancing universal human rights, notably the international protection of some of the world’s most vulnerable people – refugees and Stateless persons,” the UN chief said in a statement.
Secretary-General @antonioguterres has appointed @volker_turk of Austria as the next High Commissioner for @UNHumanRights, following approval by the General Assembly: https://t.co/LjhX92gWU8UN_Spokesperson
Career of service
The new High Commissioner is currently coordinating global policy work as an Under-Secretary-General in the UN’s Executive Office.
He also ensures UN system-wide coordination in the follow-up to the Secretary-General’s “Call to Action for Human Rights” and his report, Our Common Agenda, which sets out a vision to tackle the world’s interconnected challenges on foundations of trust, solidarity and human rights.
From 2019 to 2021, Mr. Türk served as Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination in the UN chief’s Executive Office.
Prior to that, he was the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UN refugees, UNHCR, in Geneva – from 2015 to 2019 – where he played a key role in the development of the landmark Global Compact on Refugees.
Over the course of his career, the newly appointed human rights chief held a number of key positions, including at UNHCR headquarters where he served from 2009 to 2015 as Director of the Division of International Protection; from 2008 to 2009 as Director of Organizational Development and Management; and from 2000 to 2004 as Chief of Section, Protection Policy and Legal Advice.
Mr. Türk also served UNHCR around the world, including as Representative in Malaysia; Assistant Chief of Mission in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, respectively; and Regional Protection Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and in Kuwait.
He holds a doctorate in international law from the University of Vienna and a Master of Laws degree from the University of Linz, Austria.
Moreover, the new UN human rights chief has published widely on international refugee law and international human rights law and is fluent in English, French and German with a working knowledge of Spanish.
Passing the reins
Mr. Türk will succeed Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who served as High Commissioner from 1 September 2018 through 31 August 2022.
In his statement, the Secretary-General expressed 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.
From deepening poverty to rising inequalities and a lack of access to healthcare, vaccine and treatment to discrimination and violence against women, her Office had to quickly provide solutions to these and other pivotal challenges.