Mary Robinson Speaker

Mary Robinson

A foremost advocate of the rights of all people and a role model for aspiring women

Mary Robinson: Biography highlights

Selected in 2013 to support the implementation of a U.N. peace deal signed by eleven African countries, Mary Robinson is still very much involved in supporting human rights across the globe. A chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and a member of numerous groups which support democracy and responsible leadership, including the prestigious Club of Madrid.

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Full biography of Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson’s background

After spending many years as a barrister, academic and member of the Irish senate, Robinson was the President of Ireland between 1990 and 1997, becoming the first woman to occupy the role. Determined to use the position in order to bring about positive changes for Ireland, Robinson was known for her courage and for her conviction in her beliefs and brought a new vitality to the position, which was previously considered a relatively conservative office.

Known for her strength of character and determination to make addressing human need the primary focus of her political activity, Robinson was appointed the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 1997 and occupied the position for five years. In the role, she made full use of her experience as a lawyer and a legislator in order to contribute to social change for the better.

Robinson founded the Ethical Globalization Initiative on leaving the U.N. and during its allotted eight years the foundation sought to promote equality and to influence policy in order to ensure that human rights are prioritized globally and that governments are accountable for their actions.

When this project ended in 2010, Robinson started The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice in order to continue her work to assist those whose human rights are all too often forgotten, in this case, the poor whose lives have been affected by climate change.

Positions and honours

  • Founder – The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (2010)
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009)
  • Chair – Council of Women World Leaders Founder/President – Realizing Rights – Ethical Globalization Initiative (2002-2010)
  • Prince of Asturias Award in Social Sciences (2006)
  • Included in The top 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world – Time magazine (2005)
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002)
  • President of Ireland (1990-1997)
  • Member – Irish Senate (1969-1989)
  • Honorary President – Oxfam International
  • Board member – Mastercard Foundation
  • Honorary Co-Chair – World Justice Project
  • Founder – The Mary Robinson Awards for Young Womens
  • Leadership in Human Rights
  • Eminent Advisory Board Member – Association of European
  • Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA)
  • Member – Club of Madrid
  • Member – The Elders
  • Member – UN Global Compact Board
  • Member – Royal Irish Academy
  • Member – American Philosophical Society
  • Board member – Vaccine Fund
  • Board member – Global Commission on Migration
  • Board member – Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights
  • Board member – International Commission of Jurists
  • Mary Robinson holds honorary doctorates from over 40 universities.


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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Mary Robinson has all the Gaelic attributes; she is warm, friendly and engaging. She is really passionate about human rights, especially the rights of women and young girls, and cares deeply about the environment.'

'As an advocate for the hungry and the hunted, the forgotten and the ignored, Mary Robinson has not only shone a light on human suffering, but illuminated a better future for our world.'

Barack Obama
Former U.S. President

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