Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet will be the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the organization announced Wednesday.
The announcement of Bachelet, Chile’s first female president and a former political prisoner in her country, was praised by human rights activists.
“As a victim herself, she brings a unique perspective to the role on the importance of a vigorous defense of human rights,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “People worldwide will depend on her to be a public and forceful champion, especially where offenders are powerful.”
Bachelet will replace Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, a Jordanian prince and longtime diplomat who was vocal in his criticism of many governments’ records on human rights, including war-torn countries like Syria and developed world powers like the United States.
Al-Hussein announced he wouldn’t seek another four-year tenure in the role because he was being pressured to go easier on human rights criticism.
Bachelet will take on the human rights role less than two months after the United States backed out of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council after being a target of the council’s criticism, which included a study that found the United States was the most unequal of all developed nations in the world.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said she hopes Bachelet will “avoid the failures of the past.”
“The failures of the Human Rights Council make the Secretary-General’s selection of a new High Commissioner for Human Rights all the more important,” she said in a statement.