18 Jan 2021

Fiji to head UN Human Rights Council

1:24 pm on 18 January 2021

A Fijian has been elected to head the United Nations Human Rights Council, the first time a Pacific country has held the role.

Nazhat Shameem Khan

Nazhat Shameem Khan Photo: AFP

Fiji's ambassador to Geneva, Nazhat Shameem Khan, will serve as the council's president for this year.

She was elected by an unprecedented secret ballot after a diplomatic stand-off prevented a consensus decision.

Khan, who was a favourite of western countries, won 29 of the 47 votes, beating off competition from Bahrain and Uzbekistan.

Khan - and Fiji - will lead the council at a time of intensifying competition and scrutiny over states holding abusers to account.

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama hailed the appointment as coming at a critical time for humanity.

New Zealand Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, said it would see Pacific voices represented at an important global forum.