UNCH Pillay Set To Observe U.N. Day

Navanethem Pillay i i

hide captionNew U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, South African Navanethem Pillay during the opening session of the 9th U.N. Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 8, 2008.

Salvatore Di Nolfi/AP Photo/Keystone
Navanethem Pillay

New U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, South African Navanethem Pillay during the opening session of the 9th U.N. Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 8, 2008.

Salvatore Di Nolfi/AP Photo/Keystone

On the eve of United Nations Day, newly appointed United Nations High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay reflects on her improbable journey to one of the international organization's most visible and controversial positions.

A South African of Indian heritage, she grew up during the apartheid era. She is a lawyer and served as a judge on both the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and on the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Her task now is to improve conditions for human rights around the world.

"I grew up a second-class citizen with no legal recourse. But in my lifetime, however, I had the privilege to witness a complete transformation," Pillay said.

Pillay's four-year term began Sept. 1, succeeding Louise Arbour.

U.N. Day commemorates the establishment of the U.N. charter in 1945.

The U.N. will mark its 63rd anniversary Friday with concerns of climate change, the spread of disease and deadly weapons, and the scourge of terrorism.

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