ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL BIDS FAREWELL TO HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, CLOSES TWENTY-SIXTH REGULAR SESSION

27 June 2014

The Human Rights Council this evening bid farewell to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, whose six-year term will end in eight weeks, and concluded its twenty-sixth regular session.

Michael Møller, Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, read out the message of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in which he said that Ms. Pillay had been an extraordinary High Commissioner for Human Rights and had served as a dependable, even-handed and effective advocate for the world’s most vulnerable people.  As someone who came of age under the apartheid regime in South Africa, Ms. Pillay had seen discrimination up close.  Her skin colour had denied her many opportunities, but her tremendous determination and sharp mind had helped her to become a lawyer, and then a judge.  Ms. Pillay had never forgotten how many others like her never made it up that fragile ladder.  That sense of injustice planted the seeds of her strong commitment to human rights, and was a big part of what drove her to help others.  Ms. Pillay's term as High Commissioner for Human Rights would end in eight weeks, but what she had built would last for many years.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, thanked all for the lovely surprise and said that the words of the United Nations Secretary-General were particularly valuable because of the great attention that he paid to human rights.  The High Commissioner said that it was of great importance for the victims of human rights violations that the Council addressed issues of concern to them.  Ms. Pillay thanked speakers for their warm and moving tributes today.  She said that her nomination by Nelson Mandela to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had been of extreme importance as it was South Africa’s first international appointment.

Baudelaire Ndong Ella, President of the Human Rights Council, said that in the past six years the High Commissioner had spared no efforts in protecting human rights and making sure that the international community protected rights.  On behalf of the Council, the President thanked the High Commissioner for her work and her commitment.
 
Speakers took the floor and recognized the High Commissioner for her major contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as for her efforts to promote the visibility of the most vulnerable.  She had applied a truly universal approach to the promotion and protection of human rights.  Human rights had been taken out of Geneva and into the field.  Ms. Pillay’s clear words on human rights violations regardless of where they occurred were appreciated.  The High Commissioner had shown how to reconcile the irreconcilable and her successor was encouraged to work on the basis of her achievements.  Speakers wished the High Commissioner all the best in her future endeavours. 

Speaking were Ethiopia on behalf of the African Group, South Africa, Organization for Islamic Cooperation, European Union, Argentina, Germany on behalf of the group of Western European and other States, Costa Rica on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, also spoke.

The twenty-seventh regular session of the Human Rights Council will take place from 8 to 26 September 2014.   

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Message

MICHAEL MØLLER, Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, reading out the message of BAN KI-MOON, the United Nations Secretary-General, said that it was a great pleasure to convey greetings to all who had gathered for this event honouring a close colleague, friend and global champion of justice and equality for all.  Navi Pillay had been an extraordinary High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Ms. Pillay had served as a dependable, even-handed and effective advocate for the world’s most vulnerable people.  Her clear voice, wisdom and sound sense of balance had guided her Office, placed human rights at the centre of the United Nations family and extended the reach of human rights around the world.  As someone who came of age under the apartheid regime in South Africa, Ms. Pillay had seen discrimination up close.  Her skin colour had denied her many opportunities.  But her tremendous determination and sharp mind had helped her to become a lawyer, and then a judge.  Ms. Pillay had never forgotten how many others like her never made it up that fragile ladder.  That sense of injustice planted the seeds of her strong commitment to human rights, and was a big part of what drove her to help others.
 
Ms. Pillay had been an inspiration to everyone who had had the pleasure of working with her; and had significantly strengthened the Office of the High Commissioner’s field presence, and responded quickly and nimbly to crises.  Ms. Pillay had always insisted on painstaking attention to facts, and shared her deep knowledge widely and generously.  Her deft political skill piloted her team through many perilous waters.  Ms. Pillay had also been an indispensable partner in advancing the Rights Up Front initiative, which sought to strengthen the United Nations’ response to threats of serious human rights violations.  Ms. Pillay's term as High Commissioner for Human Rights would end in eight weeks, but what she had built would last for many years.  Navi Pillay, thank you for your service as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  You have made an unforgettable contribution.

Statements

MINELIK ALEMU GATAHUN, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking on behalf of the African Group, paid tribute to Navi Pillay for her work as High Commissioner for Human Rights and for speaking against human rights violations around the world.  The African Group commended, in particular, her commitment and hard work in South Africa, her commitment to the justice system as a member of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and her commitment and hard work as High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The African Group also commended Ms. Pillay’s initiatives on the treaty-body strengthening process and human rights mainstreaming, and her contribution to the promotion of the right to development and the Declaration on the Right to Development.  The African Group hoped that the work already undertaken by Ms. Pillay would be strengthened under the incoming High Commissioner, Prince Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan.  The African Group also thanked the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner and wished Ms. Pillay success in her future endeavours.

South Africa said that Navi Pillay was the first non-white person who had become a Judge in the High Court in South Africa.  South Africa was very proud of her service in the United Nations and thanked Ms. Pillay for her sterling service for humanity. 

Organization of Islamic Cooperation reiterated its appreciation and respect for the High Commissioner’s tireless efforts for the promotion and protection of human rights around the work and wished her best in all her future endeavours.

European Union appreciated Ms. Pillay’s clear words on human rights violations regardless of where they occurred and her consistent fight against impunity, and commended the High Commissioner for giving a voice to victims of human rights abuses and for speaking out on such pressing issues as the persecution of human rights defenders and persons belonging to minorities.

Argentina thanked and recognised the High Commissioner for her major contribution to promoting and protecting human rights and for her efforts to promote the visibility of the most vulnerable.

Germany, on behalf of the group of Western European and other States, applauded the High Commissioner for her many years of courageous and unrelenting work for human rights.  She had applied a truly universal approach to the promotion and protection of human rights, forcefully defending the independence of the Office.

Costa Rica, on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, paid worthy tribute to Navi Pillay.  She had undertaken incredible work in the course of her mandate.  Major changes had emerged over her mandate in terms of the fair geographical distribution of representation.  Human rights had been taken out of Geneva and into the field.

Iran, speaking in behalf of Non-Aligned Movement, thanked the High Commissioner for her efforts during her mandate and wished her success.

Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme was honoured to congratulate Ms. Pillay for the way in which she had led the Office of the High Commissioner during her tenure and her reaction to events unfolding during her mandate.  The organization welcomed the establishment of new Council mandates, achieved despite the lack of funding and a drastic decline in the contributions.  Ms. Pillay had shown how to reconcile the irreconcilable and the organization encouraged her successor to work on the basis of her achievements.

Concluding Remarks by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the Council

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, thanked all for the lovely surprise and said that the words of the United Nations Secretary-General were particularly valuable because of the great attention that he paid to human rights.  Ms. Pillay remembered her first appearance at the Human Rights Council, which was on the second day of her mandate.  The High Commissioner said that it was of great importance for the victims of human rights violations that the Council addressed issues of concern to them.  Ms. Pillay thanked speakers for their warm and moving tributes today.  She said that her nomination by Nelson Mandela to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had been of extreme importance as it was South Africa’s first international appointment.

BAUDELAIRE NDONG ELLA, President of the Human Rights Council said that in the past six years the High Commissioner had spared no efforts in protecting human rights and making sure that the international community protected rights.  On behalf of the Council, the President thanked the High Commissioner for her work and her commitment.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC14/194E