Top honour for Durban’s Pillay
Durban: For UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Justice Navanethem (Navi) Pillay, on Monday was an opportunity for her to puff out her chest with pride and look forward to further challenges. First, she was made an honorary doctor of laws by Unisa. Then, UN leader Ban Ki-moon announced that he had asked her to stay on for an extra two years. Ban’s office said he had proposed that the 193-member UN General Assembly vote on the extension for the former South African judge.
“The secretary-general is pleased that he was able to prevail on Ms Pillay, subject to General Assembly approval, to stay on as high commissioner for human rights for two more years,” said a statement released by Ban’s office.
Later, it was announced that Pillay will, on Sunday, begin the first ever mission by a UN Human Rights chief to Zimbabwe. Pillay will visit Zimbabwe at the invitation of its government, her office announced on Tuesday.
Unisa honoured Pillay in recognition of her dedication to advancing the cause of human rights in South Africa, in Africa and in the world.
Pillay has had an illustrious career, beginning as a jurist in the then-Natal province in 1965 and later becoming the first woman to found a law practice in that province in 1967.
Pillay said she was pleased that through Unisa’s open distance learning programme, access to education was made available to people who would otherwise be left out.
“Education is the most reliable human development undertaking capable of moving the poor away from the myriad debilitating circumstances that poverty engenders and perpetuates.”
Pillay said she accepted the doctorate on behalf of all the courageous human rights defenders who had put their well-being and security and even their lives at risk for the human rights cause.
“Their quest is our quest and our numbers and influence are growing. I invariably draw fresh ideas and inspiration from the young levers of society who, I hope, will contribute to the national and global human rights movement.”