Michelle Bachelet, the executive director of U.N. Women, announced today that she would step down from her U.N. post and return to her Chilean homeland, fueling speculation that she plans to run for president in Chile’s November election.
At the close of the U.N. Conference on the Status of Women(CSW), Bachelet announced: "This will be my last CSW. I'm going back to my country."
A medical doctor who served as Chile’s former defense and health minister, Bachelet in 2006 became the first woman elected president in Chile.
Bachelet retained enormous popularity when she stepped down in 2010. But under Chile’s constitution the president is barred from serving consecutive presidential terms, and so Bachelet accepted a request by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to head up a newly established U.N. agency that focused on the promotion of women’s rights. While Bachelet has not declared her intentions to run for office, her return to political office in Chile has been long anticipated.
Following the announcement, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted that Bachelet's departure from the U.N. was a “major bummer.” She credited her with preventing the collapse of the women’s rights conference, which tonight adopted a consensus statement condemning violence against women and underscoring women's sexual reproductive health rights. The consensus almost unraveled after Egypt insisted the final document include a waiver that would allow states, based on their own customs and religious practices, to ignore their obligations under the agreement. "She is awesome and helped save #CSW 2013," Rice tweeted.
Ban also offered up praise for Bachelet, saying “her record of achievement includes new steps to protect women and girls from violence, new advances on health, and a new understanding that women’s empowerment must be at the core of all we do at the United Nations. This is a stellar legacy, and I am determined to build on it. I thank Ms. Bachelet for her contributions and wish her every success as she embarks on the next chapter in her extraordinary life. She will always have a home at the United Nations.”
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.