Austrian Appointed as New UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: September 9, 2022; 12:57 ♦ (Vindobona)

The new Human Rights High Commissioner for the UN is Austrian lawyer Volker Türk. On the proposal of Secretary-General Guterres, the 57-year-old was appointed to succeed the previous Commissioner Bachelet by the United Nations General Assembly. Türk had previously served as Assistant Secretary-General.

Austrian lawyer Volker Türk has been appointed as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. / Picture: © UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Austrian lawyer Volker Türk has been appointed as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. On the proposal of Secretary-General Guterres, the 57-year-old was approved by the United Nations General Assembly to succeed the previous Commissioner Bachelet. Türk previously held the post of Assistant Secretary-General.

Former Chilean President Bachelet was UN Commissioner for Human Rights for four years, her term ended last week. Türk has been with the UN for more than three decades, including working for the UN Refugee Agency for more than two decades.

"Mr Türk has dedicated his long and distinguished career to the promotion of universal human rights, in particular the international protection of some of the world's most vulnerable people - refugees and stateless persons," the UN chief said in a statement.

In his current post, the new High Commissioner-designate coordinates global policy work as Under-Secretary-General in the UN Executive Office. He also ensures system-wide coordination of follow-up to the Secretary-General's "Call to Action for Human Rights" and his report "Our Common Agenda", which sets out a vision for addressing the world's interconnected challenges based on trust, solidarity and human rights.

From 2019 to 2021, Mr Türk was Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination in the Executive Office of the UN Chief.

Prior to that, he was Deputy High Commissioner for Protection at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Geneva from 2015 to 2019, where he played a key role in developing the groundbreaking Global Compact for Refugees.

During his career, the newly appointed Human Rights Commissioner held a number of key positions, including at UNHCR Headquarters, where he served as Director of the Division of International Protection from 2009 to 2015, Director of Organisational Development and Management from 2008 to 2009, and Head of Protection Policy and Advocacy from 2000 to 2004.

Mr Türk has also served UNHCR around the world, including as Representative in Malaysia, Deputy Head of Mission in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Regional Protection Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kuwait.

He holds a PhD in International Law from the University of Vienna and a Master of Laws from the University of Linz, Austria.

In addition, the new UN Human Rights Officer has published widely on international refugee law and international human rights, and is fluent in English, French and German as well as Spanish.

Türk will succeed Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who served as High Commissioner from 1 September 2018 to 31 August 2022.

In his statement, the Secretary-General thanked Ms Bachelet for her "commitment and dedicated service to the United Nations".

During her tenure, which included the COVID-19 pandemic, she focused on strengthening social protection, adapting to the virtual world of work and expanding human rights monitoring.

From increasing poverty to growing inequality and lack of access to health care, vaccines and treatment, to discrimination and violence against women, her office had to quickly find solutions to these and other key challenges.

UN United Nations

UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees