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Mary Robinson - Biography

President Mary Robinson is Former President of Ireland & Founder of The Ethical Globalization Initiative

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland and formerly the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate and is a world leader who puts her humanity very much at the forefront of her politics. She now chairs the Council of Women World Leaders and is President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative. She has been named a “Hero and Icon” as one of Time magazine’s 2005 top 100 men and women whose "power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.” In 2006, President Robinson received Spain’s prestigious Prince of Asturias Award in Social Sciences prize for her work as a global human rights campaigner, singled out for her "moral strength,” her defense of "ethics in the field of politics and academic research," and her "tireless efforts to bring about a world without borders."

Broadening her international scope, President Robinson expands her leadership into other areas including business enterprise, corporate citizenship, and the broad reform of some of the word’s most prestigious organizations. She serves as Vice President of Club of Madrid, working to promote democracy worldwide. In business, she is one of five prestigious board members of the Mastercard Foundation, a newly established independent foundation focusing on microfinance, youth entrepreneurship and education. President Robinson was recently appointed to the UN Global Compact Board, a group of 20 global business, labour and social leaders working to advance ten universal business principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption for this large voluntary corporate citizenship initiative. With her emphasis on making human rights the compass which charts a course for globalization that is fair, just, and benefits all, she retains a high visibility on pressing issues such as global health, the battle against poverty, and supporting microfinance in many nations.

Mary Robinson

Robinson recently became a member of The Elders, a group of world leaders who contribute their wisdom, independent leadership, and integrity to tackling some of the world’s toughest problems with the goal of making the world a better place. This group of luminaries was founded by Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Based in New York, her work with Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative is supported by a partnership with 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. The recipient of numerous honours and awards throughout the world.

President Robinson is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Philosophical Society and is Honorary President of Oxfam International. She also serves on many boards including the Vaccine Fund, the Global Commission on Migration, the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights, and the International Commission of Jurists.

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. Continuing her educational experience, she now serves as Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria, South Africa as well as a Council of Goodwill Ambassador.

As an academic, legislator and barrister, she 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, since then, she has been Chancellor of the University.