1 JULY 2014
|PRINCE ZEID, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS HIGH COMMISSIONER
This year is bringing good fortune to Jordan's seasoned Permanent Representative Zeid Bin Raad Al-Hussein. With the closing of 2013, he was able
to get a 2-year Security Council membership for his country after Saudi Arabia left it open. By alphabetical rotation as he took over his seat,
it was his turn to start as President of the Council.
By August, Prince Zeid will take over as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Indeed, Prince Zeid is particularly qualified, by temperament,
qualifications and experience for that post. He chaired the international
effort to establish the International Tribunal in Rome; he served as a political peacekeeper in field missions like Bosnia, where he gained
first-hand insight into controversial human rights issues; he was distinguished for outspoken positions beyond his strict designation as Representative
of Jordan, whether in Washington, D.C. or New York. He interpreted his assignments creatively with modest confidence and an understated sense of humour while
advancing U.N. objectives which are -- in principle -- identical to those of his country.
To be frank, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights post has
been eroding in stature and credibility for a while. After Mary Robinson, who
made an unprecedented move as the first active Head of State (Ireland) to take a U.N. post, and the terrorist murder of the outstanding Sergio
Vieira de Mello, the role of Ms. Navi Pillay in particular seemed to dwindle gradually. After a welcome start as a highly-regarded South African, who was part of the
hard long struggle against Apartheid, Ms. Pillay was caught in several issues from Sri Lanka, Darfur Southern Sudan, Mali, Congo, Ukraine, Iraq and
Syria -- amongst other human tragedies -- while coping with a politically-structured Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Security Council in New
York, and political pressure from powerful Permanent Members with openly conflicting agendas. Despite a solid record as a decent and honourable
human rights activist, Ms. Pillay could have done better if she had wider political vision and a sharper political antenna. Besides, she most
likely did not maintain the solid support she once had at home. The appointment earlier this year of another South African to succeed Ms.
Bachelet as head of U.N. Women practically meant that her mandated time was about to close.
When initial reports were heard in diplomatic corridors that Prince Zeid will be replaced by another Jordanian diplomat (see
Insider item from
May 2014), there was concern that the Council, not his country alone, would be a loser. Prince Zeid winning the widely coveted post, which is
politically sensitive, particularly these days, would help regain its role and -- similarly -- give a seasoned popular diplomat a further
to move ahead.