Mary Robinson is President of the Foundation and Chair of the Board of Trustees. She is a former President of Ireland (1990-1997) and a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002).
Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997), former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), and founder and President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative (2002-2010), has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. Born Mary Bourke in Ballina, County Mayo (1944), the daughter of two physicians, she was educated at the University of Dublin (Trinity College), King’s Inns Dublin and Harvard Law School to which she won a fellowship in 1967.
As an academic (Trinity College Law Faculty 1968-90), legislator (Member of the Irish Senate 1969-89) and barrister (Irish Bar 1967-90, Senior Counsel 1980; called to the English Bar 1973) she sought to use law as an instrument for social change, arguing landmark cases before the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court in Luxembourg as well as in the Irish courts. A committed European, she also served on expert European Community and Irish parliamentary committees.
In 1988 Mary Robinson and her husband founded the Irish Centre for European Law at Trinity College. Ten years later she was elected Chancellor of the University.
The recipient of numerous honours and awards throughout the world including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, Mary Robinson is a member of the Elders, former Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and a member of the Club of Madrid.
She serves on several boards including the European Climate Foundation, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Philosophical Society.
Mary Robinson returned to live in Ireland, following the planned end of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, in December 2010. She now serves as President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. Between March 2013 and August 2014 Mary Robinson was the UN Secretary-General Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. From August 2014 – December 2015 she was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change. In May 2016 the UN Secretary-General appointed Mary Robinson as a Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate.