Who Is Michelle Bachelet? UN Human Rights Chief Ends Term

Michelle Bachelet
China is reportedly attempting to block the publication of a United Nations Commission on Human Rights report that details the conditions of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. As per reports, China expressed “grave concern” over the looming publication of the report, which Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who has received criticism for being too soft on China during her term, has vowed to publish before she leaves her post on August 31. However, it’s unclear whether China has actually seen the report. It’s also unclear whether Bachelet received Beijing’s plea to block its publication.

Earlier in June, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she will not seek a new four-year term, citing a desire to return to her native Chile, after a tenure that has been recently overshadowed by criticism of her response to China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in western Xinjiang.

“I am not a young woman anymore and after a long and rich career, I want to go back to my country, to my family,” Bachelet, 70, who served two terms as Chile’s president, said at a brief news conference.

In a statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised Bachelet’s “relentless” service to the UN in the job.

“In all she has done, Michelle Bachelet lives and breathes human rights. She has moved the needle in an extremely challenging political context — and she has made a profound difference for people around the globe,” he said.

Who is Michelle Bachelet?

Bachelet was born in Santiago on September 29, 1951. She is the daughter of Alberto Bachelet, a General in the Chilean Air Force, and anthropologist Ángela Jeria. She is an alumnus of the University of Chile, Karl Marx University and Leipzig Inter-American Defense College.

Bachelet has a Medical Degree in Surgery, with a specialization in Pediatrics and Public Health. She also studied military strategy at Chile’s National Academy of Strategy and Policy and at the Inter-American Defense College in the United States.

Who Is Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet and The UN

In 2010 she chaired the Social Protection Floor Advisory Group, a joint International Labor Organization (ILO) and World Health Organization (WHO) initiative, which sought to promote social policies to stimulate economic growth and social cohesion.

In 2011, she was named the first Director of UN Women, an organisation dedicated to fighting for the rights of women and girls internationally.  Economic empowerment and ending violence against women were two of her priorities during her tenure.

Michelle Bachelet in the Chile office

Bachelet was elected President of Chile on two occasions (2006 – 2010 and 2014 – 2018). She was the first female president of Chile. She served as Health Minister (2000-2002) as well as Chile’s and Latin America’s first female Defense Minister (2002 – 2004).

During her presidential tenure, she focused on achieving greater equality and social inclusion in Chile. Among her many achievements was the creation of the National Institute for Human Rights and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights stand out, as do the establishment of the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, the adoption of quotas to increase women’s political participation, and the approval of Civil Union Act legislation, granting rights to same-sex couples and thus, advancing LGBTQ rights.

As The UN human rights chief officer

Bachelet took up the job in September 2018 and immediately expressed hopes of visiting China and viewing the rights situation in Xinjiang for herself.

Critics said she hasn’t spoken out enough about the Uyghurs and during the visit didn’t press Chinese authorities enough. She insisted her trip was not an “investigation” and emphasised that she had opened a channel of communication with top Chinese authorities.

Responding to the calls, Bachelet said, “Having been president (of Chile) twice, I have received a lot of criticism in my life. That’s not what makes me do certain decisions.”

Bachelet also raised concern about setbacks to women’s rights and abortion restrictions, referring to the United States.

Suggested Reading: Who Is Samina Baig? First Pakistani Woman To Climb K2 Mountain