Austrian politician Turk will be replacing Chilean politician Michelle Bachelet, whose term ended on August 31.

Turk had served at the UN High Commission for Refugees as the assistant high commissioner for protection from 2015 to 2019.
Turk had served at the UN High Commission for Refugees as the assistant high commissioner for protection from 2015 to 2019. (AP Archive)

The United Nations General Assembly has approved a veteran Austrian diplomat to be the global body's human rights chief and its advocate for adherence to universal rights.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres nominated Volker Turk, his top policy chief, late on Wednesday and the 193-member assembly quickly approved the appointment by consensus on Thursday.

Turk will replace Michelle Bachelet of Chile, whose four-year term ended on August 31, as the high commissioner for human rights based in Geneva.

Bachelet’s term ended with the last-minute release of her report on China’s detention of Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, which she said may constitute crimes against humanity.

China blasted the report, accusing the UN rights office of fabrication and allowing itself to be used by Western nations.

READ MORE: UN releases Xinjiang report despite China's 'firm' opposition

'Effective human rights response'

Turk, who holds a doctorate in international law from the University of Vienna, worked for the UN high commissioner for refugees around the world, including in Malaysia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Congo and Kuwait, before serving in key positions at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

From 2015 to 2019 he was assistant high commissioner for protection where he focused on developing the Global Compact on Refugees.

From 2019 until January 2022, Turk served as assistant secretary-general for strategic coordination in Guterres’ office. The UN chief then appointed him as undersecretary-general for policy in his executive office.

This year, Turk has been focusing on the follow-up to Guterres’ September 2021 report called “Our Common Agenda” outlining his vision for the “breakthrough scenario” to a greener and safer world.

He was also tasked with conducting UN system-wide coordination including on the secretary-general’s “Call to Action for Human Rights.”

Amnesty International’s secretary general, Agnes Callamard, said Turk is being appointed “at a time of considerable threats to human rights around the world."

"His agenda should also include strengthening the human rights response to climate change and rising inequality," she said in a statement.

READ MORE: UN rights chief urges China to review 'counter-terrorism' policies

Source: TRTWorld and agencies