Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson First woman President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; a passionate advocate for gender equality, women’s participation in peace-building, human dignity and climate justice. Mary Robinson is a globally recognised voice on climate change and frequently highlights the need for drastic action from world leaders, as well as the intersectionality of the climate emergency: from intergenerational injustice to gender inequality and biodiversity loss.

Part of the wisdom of the Elders is to remind the world that we actually have universal values that are accepted by every government in the world and yet they are not being implemented.”

Mary Robinson Work with The Elders

Mary Robinson is a founding member of The Elders and was appointed Chair in November 2018 following the death of Kofi Annan. As a member of The Elders, Mary Robinson has addressed the UN Security Council and other agencies on multiple occasions. She has met with world leaders to promote global peace and ethical leadership, including Pope Francis in the Vatican, President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and President Xi Jinping in Beijing to discuss multilateralism, climate change, nuclear nonproliferation and human rights.

Mary Robinson has travelled multiple times to African countries with the Elders, meeting with political leaders and civil society activists to discuss issues of peace, justice and human rights. Missions include Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Mary Robinson has also been part of several delegations to the Middle East with the Elders to encourage peace efforts and support Israelis and Palestinians working for peaceful coexistence; and visited the Korean Peninsula to try to help ease tensions between North and South Korea and learn more about North Korea’s chronic food crisis

First woman President of Ireland Mary Robinson was elected Irish President in 1990 and served for seven years as a principled and transformative leader who fought for equality and women’s rights throughout her time in office. A firm believer in dialogue and reconciliation, she broke taboos by being the first Irish head of state to make official visits to Britain, as well as regularly visiting Northern Ireland.

She was the first head of state to visit Somalia following the crisis there in 1992 and brought global media attention to the suffering of Rwandans as the first Head of State to visit the country after the 1994 genocide. Human rights champion As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), Mary Robinson integrated human rights into the United Nations system and became renowned as an outspoken voice dedicated to investigating and exposing human rights abuses across the world.

She founded Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, which aimed to put human rights standards at the heart of global governance and to ensure that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are addressed on the global stage. For this, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009.

As an academic, legislator and barrister, Mary 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. A committed European, she also served on expert European Community and Irish parliamentary committees.

A tireless champion of women’s equality, she travelled to Ethiopia in June 2011 with her fellow Elders to convene an international meeting of experts and activists working to end child marriage, which was followed by a visit to India in February 2012 to support youth activists tackling early marriage in their communities. She travelled again to Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan in 2013 to meet with women leaders and encourage their participation in the peace process. She also visited the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2013, as the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, to promote women’s rights and where she met with women survivors of sexual abuse.