The Jordanian UN ambassador, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, has been appointed the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The 50-year-old is a relative of Jordan’s royal family and who graduated from Johns Hopkins University and received a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

He has been his country’s ambassador to the United Nations for the past four years, and served in the same position from 2000 to 2007.

Prince Zeid al-Hussein was nominated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month and his candidacy passed unanimous approval in the UN General Assembly on Monday.

“I am going to be the first high commissioner from the Asian continent and from the Muslim and Arab worlds,” Prince Zeid al-Hussein said after the confirmation.

“Needless to say this reflects the commitment of the international community towards this important dossier and its commitment to push it forward in this continent as well as in other regions of the world,” he added.

He will take over from the current incumbent, Navi Pillay, who steps down in September.

Mrs Pillay, a South African of Indian Tamil origin, began her term as High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 2008.

She pushed the UN to recognise and protect LGBT rights for the first time.

The 72-year-old has frequently expressed dismay at the rolling back of LGBT rights around the world during her six years in post, criticising India, Nigeria and Uganda for introducing new laws against LGBT expression in the past year.

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Jordan since 1951 and the age of consent is equal.

However, further legal rights for the LGBT community remain unsecured.

Jordan has no laws against LGBT discrimination and hate crimes. Same-sex marriage, civil unions and adoption rights for same-sex couples are also not recognised.

LGBT people remain banned from serving in the armed forces.

Although Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, the king holds wide executive and legislative powers. Jordan is classified as a country of “medium human development” by the UN 2011 Human Development Report.

Earlier this month, the UN General Assembly was heavily criticised for appointing Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa as its new president.

The senior politician has angered human rights campaigners over his views about homosexuality and his support for Uganda’s anti-gay legislation.