Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002, is the 2016 recipient of the Stockholm Human Rights Award.

Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson.
Photo: Micke Lundström

Mary Robinson, the seventh – and first female – President of Ireland, held office between 1990 and 1997. She is widely regarded as having been a transformative figure for Ireland and is credited with revitalising and liberalising the presidency. Upon taking up post at the UN in 1997, she was given the mandate to set the human rights agenda within the organisation and internationally.

Presently, as President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, Mary Robinson staunchly advocates for global justice for people most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – the poor, the disempowered and the marginalised across the world. She lectures tirelessly on the topic, travels the globe to engage with all who are concerned for global justice, and calls constantly and persuasively on world leaders for swift, far-reaching and ambitious climate action. The impact of climate change on people and their rights – to food, safe water, health, education and shelter – is what drives her work.

In a TED talk delivered in September 2015, Mary Robinson lamented her coming late to the issue of climate change and detailed how, when leading Realizing Rights – The Ethical Globalization Initiative and working on issues of development and human rights in African countries, she would hear a phrase uttered ubiquitously: ‘Oh, but things are so much worse now, things are so much worse.’ Exploring what lay behind it, she found the issue to be about climate shocks, such as extreme changes in the weather. The threat that human-induced climate change may one day cause an entire nation to disappear under water, as in the case of Kiribati, has affected her profoundly and accelerated her efforts.

Mary Robinson has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate and is the recipient of numerous honours and awards throughout the world, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. She is a member of the Elders, former Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and a member of the Club of Madrid.

Mary Robinson was presented with the 2016 Stockholm Human Rights Award on Wednesday 23 November 2016 at Berwaldhallen, Dag Hammarskjölds väg 3, Stockholm, Sweden.