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U.N. appoints first human rights chief from Arab world

By Deborah E. Bloom, CNN
updated 5:30 PM EDT, Tue June 17, 2014
The U.N. General Assembly approved the appointment of Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan as the new commissioner for human rights.
The U.N. General Assembly approved the appointment of Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan as the new commissioner for human rights.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prince Zeid of Jordan chosen as new human rights chief
  • He is succeeding Navi Pillay of South Africa, who's served in the role since 2008
  • He is the first representative from the Arab world to ever serve in the role

(CNN) -- The United Nations has just appointed a new human rights chief -- its first to come from the Arab and Muslim world.

The U.N. General Assembly approved Monday the appointment of Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan as the new commissioner for human rights, according to a news release from the organization. Zeid currently serves as Jordan's permanent representative to the U.N.

He called his appointment a sign of the international community's commitment toward human rights in the Middle East, "as well as in other regions of the world."

Zeid's appointment comes amid rising tensions in the Middle East, with Islamic militants making quick strides in Iraq and ongoing sectarian violence in Syria. In the past, he's been vocal about his country's refugee problem stemming from the crisis in Syria. He was also instrumental in the U.N.'s establishment of an International Criminal Court.

"My supportive wife told me to enjoy this moment, to soak it all up. After all, she said, you are among friends who you've known for a very long time," Zeid said after representatives' applause following his appointment. "Because when you start this job, she added, you may not have them for very long."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Zeid earlier this month to replace Navi Pillay of South Africa, who has spoken on many issues, including Syria and the recent crisis in Ukraine. Her predecessors have been from Ecuador, Ireland, Brazil, and Canada.

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