Former President of Ireland
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
"Human Rights and Ethical Globalization" - March 31, 2005
"Statistics give us the numbers we account for in addressing inequalities. They fail to convey the humiliation, insecurities, hopelessness, the lack of dignity involved."
Mary Robinson sees a renewed commitment to multilateralism and respect for international law, particularly international human rights law, as needed to address the challenges of a globalizing world. She will address why it is in the national interest of the United States, and in the collective interest of the international community, to defend, strengthen and reform the multilateral system to meet the challenges of the 21st century. "Key to that effort," says Robinson, "must be a greater sense of shared responsibility for, and commitment to, the implementation of international human rights law."
Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland and more recently United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997 to 2002), has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. As a woman politician who put her humanity very much at the forefront of her politics, she now chairs the Council of Women World Leaders and is a member of the Global Commission on International Migration. Robinson is also leading the Ethical Globalization Initiative, which is based in New York and supported by a partnership of the Aspen Institute, Columbia University (where she is a professor of practice) and the Swiss-based International Council on Human Rights Policy. Its goal is to bring the norms and standards of human rights into the globalization process and to support capacity building in good governance in developing countries.
As an academic, legislator and barrister, Robinson has always sought to use law as an instrument for social change, arguing landmark cases before the European Court of Human Rights as well as in the Irish courts and the European Court in Luxembourg. In 1988, Robinson and her husband, Nicholas Robinson, founded the Irish Centre for European Law at the University of Dublin, and since 1998 she has been chancellor of the university.
As president of Ireland, Robinson made inclusiveness a hallmark during her widely praised tenure. She used her office not only for the betterment of marginalized groups within Ireland, but also to draw attention to global crises. She was the first head of state to visit famine-stricken Somalia in 1992 and also the first to go to Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide there. Drawing on Ireland 's own history of colonialism and famine, she articulated a special relationship between Ireland and developing countries, particularly in Africa. Her humanitarian efforts as president, her background in human rights law and her uncompromising pursuit of justice and equality made her a prime candidate for the position of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the 1999 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding. Robinson is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Philosophical Society and is honorary president of Oxfam International as well as Penal Reform International. A member of the Club of Madrid - a group of former heads of states and government - she serves on many boards, including the Vaccine Fund.
Robinson was educated at the University of Dublin (Trinity College), King's Inns Dublin and Harvard Law School, to which she won a fellowship in 1967. She holds honorary doctorates from over 40 universities around the world, including Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge, London and Edinburgh.
Updated on 3/31/2005