Former UN High Commissioner and human rights advocate Navanethem ‘Navi’ Pillay was invited to Erasmus University Rotterdam in recognition of her lifelong fight against inequality, injustice, and the violence perpetrated against vulnerable groups. In her lecture on Thursday 9 June 2016, Navi Pillay addressed challenges regarding the current refugee crisis.
On this occasion she received an honorary doctorate in recognition of her significant contributions to the human rights field, both in her native country, South Africa, and internationally.
In South Africa, Navi Pillay defended anti-apartheid activists, fought for better prison conditions for political activists, and has done important work to protect women against domestic violence. Internationally, she has received praise for her work as judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Navanethem "Navi" Pillay served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to 2014. A South African of Indian Tamil origin, she was the first non-white woman judge of 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 and was extended for an additional two years in 2012.
In April 2015 Pillay became the 16th Commissioner of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty.