Issue 130 - March 11 - Piet de Klerk and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro Rumored Candidates for HR Post

New York, March 11, 2010 - Two more candidates - Piet de Klerk of the Netherlands and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro of Brazil - are rumored to have applied for the new post of UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights. 

(For information on the newly created position, see January 25, 2010 advertisement in The Economist outlining the position and qualifications, as well as UNelections Monitor Issue #122 (February 12) - New High-Level Post: Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.)

About de Klerk

Piet de Klerk has been Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the UN since July 2007. His human rights background includes working as the Netherlands' Ambassador-at-large for Human Rights from 2003 to 2007.

De Klerk began his education at the University of Amsterdam and the Politechnico of Milan. In 1978, de Klerk received his Masters in mathematics, and in 1979 in physics, also at the University of Amsterdam. 

He served at the Netherlands' Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1980, and in 1987 he was first secretary and counselor at the country's permanent mission to the UN, where he specialized in UN affairs and nuclear energy and non-proliferation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). From 1991 to 1996, de Klerk headed the Ministry's Arms Control Division at the Security Policy Department. He then worked in Germany as Political Counsellor and Head of the Consular Section at the Netherlands Embassy. De Klerk worked at the IAEA in Vienna from 1998 to 2003 as Director of the Office of External Relations and Policy Co-ordination. 

In 2008, as Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, he chaired the UN Disarmament Commission.

About Pinheiro

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro currently serves as a commissioner of the Organization of American States' Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. His term lasts from January 2005 until December 2011.

Pinheiro is widely known for his role as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar (Burma) from 2000 to 2008, for which he earned a reputation as an outspoken supporter of human rights activism in the country. (Read May 2009 op-ed by Pinheiro, "End Burma's System of Impunity".)

Pinheiro began his career in academia, teaching international relations and human rights at São Paulo (where he earned his doctorate in Political Science), Columbia, Notre Dame, and Oxford Universities, as well as at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, in Paris. Currently he is an adjunct professor at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies.

From 1995 to 1998, Pinheiro was the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi and also served on the former UN Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. 

Pinheiro also is known for his work with children's rights. From 2003 to 2006, as an independent expert with the rank of an Assistant Secretary-General, Pinheiro prepared the "World Report on Violence against Children," presented to the General Assembly in 2006. 

Other Candidates

Piet de Klerk and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro join Irene Khan and Heraldo Muñoz on the list of those believed to have applied for the ASG position.

According to the blog Turtle Bay, other rumored candidates include:

  • Marieclaire Acosta, former ambassador of Mexico for human rights and democracy;
  • Jamal Benomar, chief of staff for GA President Ali Abdussalam Treki;
  • Reed Brody, European press director for Human Rights Watch;
  • Michael O'Flaherty, legal scholar, serves on UN Human Rights Committee;
  • Carlos Portales, Ambassador of Chile to UN in Geneva;
  • David Scheffer, former U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes; and
  • Joanna Weschler, Polish pro-democracy activist in the 1980s, former UN representative for Human Rights Watch.

Expected Selection Criteria

A selection committee established by the Secretary-General is expected to review the candidates against the declared criteria, including:

  • At least twenty years of senior leadership experience in human rights or a related field,
  • Negotiation and diplomatic skills, and
  • Strong leadership and management abilities.

Finalists will be submitted to the Secretary-General for a decision. 

The selection panel reportedly is comprised of:

  • Navanethem Pillay (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights),
  • Jessica Neuwirth (head of New York Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights),
  • Patricia O'Brien (Under-Secretary-General and Legal Counsel of the UN), and
  • Kyung-wha Kang (Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights).

Request for Information

Because the application process for this post is confidential and the UNelections Campaign has not seen the applications themselves, it relies on well-placed sources to learn of candidates, their qualifications, and other aspects of the selection process. The Campaign welcomes all information and input.

UN elections and appointments in the news