Home > Famous Person, General Knowledge > 156/365 – Navanethem Pillay

156/365 – Navanethem Pillay

Name: Navanethem Pillay
Born: September 23, 1941
Place: Durban, South Africa
Nationality: South African
Spouse: Gaby Pillay
Residence: Geneva, Switzerland
Alma mater: Natal University, Harvard Law School
Profession: Jurist

Navanethem “Navi” Pillay is the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. A South African, she was the first non-white woman on the High Court of South Africa, and she has also served as a judge of the International Criminal Court and President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Her four-year term as High Commissioner for Human Rights began on 1 September 2008.


Pillay was born in 1941 in a poor neighborhood of Durban, South Africa. She is of Tamil descent and her father was a bus driver. She married Gaby Pillay, a lawyer, in January 1965.

Supported by her local Indian community with donations, she graduated from the University of Natal with a BA in 1963 and an LLB in 1965. She later attended Harvard Law School, obtaining an LLM in 1982 and a Doctor of Juridical Science degree in 1988. Pillay is the first South African to obtain a doctorate in law from Harvard Law School.

High Commissioner for Human Rights

On 24 July 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nominated Pillay to succeed Louise Arbour as High Commissioner for Human Rights. The United States reportedly resisted her appointment at first, because of her views on abortion and other issues, but eventually dropped its opposition.

At a special meeting on 28 July 2008, the UN General Assembly confirmed the nomination by consensus. Her four-year term began on 1 September 2008. Pillay says the High Commissioner is “the voice of the victim everywhere.”


In 2003, Pillay received the inaugural Gruber Prize for Women’s Rights. She has been awarded honourary degrees by Durham University, the City University of New York School of Law, the London School of Economics and Rhodes University. In 2009, Forbes ranked her as the 64th most powerful woman in the world.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navanethem_Pillay

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