The first woman President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson is a passionate, forceful advocate for gender equality, women’s participation in peace-building and human dignity. Mary has been a member of The Elders since the group was founded in 2007, and was appointed Chair of The Elders in November 2018.
She founded the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, a centre for education and advocacy on sustainable and people-centred development in the world’s poorest communities. She served as the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Climate Change from July 2014 - December 2015, which saw the successful conclusion of the COP21 Climate Summit and the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In May 2016, Mary was appointed as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate, along with Macharia Kamau of Kenya, to focus the world’s attention to meet the urgent challenges posed by extreme weather events on the poorest and most vulnerable communities.
As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), Mary 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.
Mary was elected Irish President in 1990 and served for seven years as a principled and transformative leader who continued to fight 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 just after the 1994 genocide.