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Press briefing note: Zeid

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 22 December 2017
Subject:   High Commissioner’s decision not to seek a second term

(1)  High Commissioner’s mandate

I would just like to clarify the situation around the High Commissioner’s decision not to seek a second four-year mandate.

While he – and many of us, his colleagues who work in the UN Human Rights Office – appreciate the many extremely nice compliments that have been said about him and the way he has stood up so strongly for human rights, we are also concerned that this decision is also being a little over-dramatized.

One article about his decision was entitled “2017.The year even the U.N. human rights commissioner gave up on human rights.” While we can understand that the headline writer was having some fun here, it is actually a very misleading title indeed. It is of course absolutely not the case that the High Commissioner is giving up on human rights. Contrary to a lot of reporting on this, he is not “standing down” or resigning. Far from it. He has a four-year mandate and will carry it out at full steam, without fear or favour, until the very last day which is 31 August – more than eight months away.

There is nothing unusual at all in a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights only serving one term. In fact, only two of the six High Commissioners so far have served more than four years. Mary Robinson was extended for a year and Navi Pillay served a partial two-year second term. So serving one term is normal, serving more than that is unusual.


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / rcolville@ohchr.org), or Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 94 66 / ethrossell@ohchr.org)

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