Issue 122 - February 12 - New High-Level Post: Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights

New York, February 12, 2010 - The UN General Assembly recently agreed to create a new high-level position the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The Office of the High Commissioner (Navanethem Pillay) initiated the selection process to fill the new post on January 25, with an announcement in The Economist outlining the position and qualifications. The application closing date is February 15, 2010 (this coming Monday).

The advertisement was circulated to UN Member States in a Note Verbale on January 25, which confirmed, "recruitment is underway."

The new position, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, was approved late on December 23, 2009 as part of the General Assembly's lengthy Fifth Committee (Budgetary) negotiations.

Job Description and Qualifications

The responsibilities and credentials needed in the Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) are described in the ad as follows.


  • Serve as the High Commissioner's principal representative in New York
  • Head the New York Office of the High Commissioner
  • Integrate human rights into key policy and management decisions and into the work of intergovernmental bodies based in New York
  • Ensure that the New York Office activities are closely coordinated with OHCHR headquarters in Geneva
  • Assist the High Commissioner in building relations with:
    • Member States
    • Other UN organizations,
    • International organizations,
    • Regional and national institutions,
    • Non-governmental organizations,
    • The private sector, and
    • Academia.


  • At least twenty years of professional experience in senior leadership positions in human rights or a related field,
  • An advanced university degree in human rights, law or relevant field,
  • Negotiation and diplomatic skills,
  • Strong leadership and management abilities, and
  • Fluency in English and knowledge of another UN language.

Women and developing country candidates were particularly encouraged to apply.

The qualifications reportedly are similar to those requested of the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2006, when the position was filled by Kyung-wha Kang of South Korea.

Selection Process

The application closing date is February 15, 2010.

The selection reportedly could be conducted almost entirely by the High Commissioner's office, with the resulting final few candidates ("shortlist") submitted for review and a decision by the Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General's office has indicated that the short-list should be gender-balanced.

Civil Society Recommendations

The UNelections Campaign commends the Office of the High Commissioner for publicizing the selection process for the new Assistant Secretary-General.

As much depends on the quality of the appointment, the UNelections Campaign calls for:

  • A merit-based selection,
  • The establishment of a selection panel including independent experts, who are also highly qualified in the field of human rights, to interview and evaluate candidates, and
  • The circulation of a shortlist of candidates.

Governments and other appropriate stakeholders should have adequate time to consider and comment on the short-listed candidates prior to the final decision.

Key qualifications for the candidates should include recognition as a human rights leader, as well as a working familiarity with the UN and ability to operate effectively in a UN environment.


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