Headshot of Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet

Former President of Chile and Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


Michelle Bachelet was the first woman to hold Chile’s presidency and later became the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights.

Bachelet was twice elected as Chile’s president, serving from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018. She had previously been the first woman to serve Chile or any Latin American nation as defense minister, from 2002 to 2004. Bachelet also served as the country’s health minister from 2000 to 2002.

Following her second term as president, Bachelet was appointed by UN Secretary General António Guterres as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. She held the position as the UN’s principal human rights official from 2018 to 2022, spearheading the organization’s human rights efforts around the world.

She has also served in leadership roles at multiple international organizations — including as the first executive director of UN Women, as chair of the Partnership for Maternal Newborn, and Child Health, and as chair of the ILO’s Social Protection Floor Advisory Group.

Bachelet’s career in government and human rights originates from her studies in medicine at the University of Chile. During the Pinochet regime (1973–1990), her father died from a heart attack that was a result of torture, and in 1975, she and her mother were imprisoned and exiled. Despite these hardships, Bachelet continued her medical studies in Berlin, returning to her home country in 1979 to specialize in pediatrics and public health at the Roberto del Río Children’s Hospital. After Chile's return to democracy in 1990, she joined the Western Metropolitan Health Service as an epidemiologist and then the National AIDS Commission. She also was a consultant for the Pan-American Health Organization, the World Health Organization, and the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ).

In 1994, Bachelet worked as an advisor to the Ministry of Health on primary health care and health services management. Later, she participated in a course on military strategy at the National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies.