Mary Therese Winifred Robinson (nÃ©e Bourke)
born 21 May 1944
served as the seventh, and first female, President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1997 to 2002. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister, campaigner and member of the Irish Senate (1969â€“1989). She defeated Fianna FÃ¡il's Brian Lenihan and Fine Gael's Austin Currie in the 1990 presidential election becoming, as an Independent candidate nominated by the Labour Party, the Workers' Party and independent senators, the first elected president in the office's history not to have had the support of Fianna FÃ¡il.
She is widely regarded as a transformative figure in the presidency of Ireland, who revitalised and liberalised a previously conservative, low-profile political office. She resigned the presidency two months ahead of the end of her term of office to take up her post in the United Nations. Robinson has been Honorary President of Oxfam International since 2002 and of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation EIUC since 2005, she is Chair of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and is also a founding member and Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders. Robinson was a member of the European members of the Trilateral Commission.
After leaving the UN in 2002, Robinson formed Realizing Rights: the Ethical Globalization Initiative, which came to a planned end at the end of 2010. Its core activities were 1) fostering equitable trade and decent work, 2) promoting the right to health and more humane migration policies, and 3) working to strengthen women's leadership and encourage corporate responsibility. The organisation also supported capacity building and good governance in developing countries. Robinson returned to live in Ireland at the end of 2010, and has set up The Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice, which aims to be 'a centre for thought leadership, education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those many victims of climate change who are usually forgotten - the poor, the disempowered and the marginalised across the world.'
Robinson is Chair of the Institute for Human Rights and Business and Chancellor of the University of Dublin. Since 2004, she has also been Professor of Practice in International Affairs at Columbia University, where she teaches international human rights. Robinson also visits other colleges and universities where she lectures on human rights. Mary also sits on the Board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, an organisation which supports good governance and great leadership in Africa, and is a member of the Foundationâ€™s Ibrahim Prize Committee. Robinson is an is Extraordinary Professor in the Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for the Study of AIDS at the University of Pretoria.
In 2004, she received Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award for her work in promoting human rights.