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Zeid, top UN human rights chief, quits over ‘undue influence from powerful countries’

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Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein of Jordan gestures after a press conference on October 16, 2014 in Geneva (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

“After reflection, I have decided not to seek a second four-year term. To do so, in the current geopolitical context, might involve bending a knee in supplication; muting a statement of advocacy; lessening the independence and integrity of my voice — which is your voice.”

This was the message staff of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights received from their boss, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, in an email marking the end of the year, according to Foreign Policy.

Zeid’s four-year tenure ends in 2018 and, though he is eligible for another term, he’s decided against it. The Jordanian prince’s decision to step down further thrusts the UN into the spotlight, with many fearing the global body is not doing enough to protect human rights.

In September, the BBC reported that the UN leadership in Myanmar had tried to prevent the Rohingya crisis from being discussed with the government, and also discouraged human rights organisations from visiting parts of the country affected by crisis.

The biggest and clearest hint that the UN dances to the tunes of powerful and donor countries came in 2016 when then Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said he was pressured and threatened with funds withdrawal to remove Saudi Arabia from a blacklist it was on because of its role in the war in Yemen, which has been called the biggest humanitarian crisis right now.

Ban Ki Moon said the decision was “one of the most painful and difficult” he had had to make, adding that the decision was made because millions of children faced real threat if countries decided to stop funding UN programmes.

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