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Mary  Robinson

Mary Robinson

Former President of Ireland, Chair of The Elders & Former UN Special Envoy on Climate Change


One of the world’s most respected advocates for climate justice and Ireland’s first woman President, Mary Robinson is a sought-after speaker who has moved audiences around the world with her passionate and hopeful call for all nations to work together to fight for a sustainable future. Her TED Talk received a standing ovation. Her latest book, Climate Justice, has received glowing reviews from former world leaders and the environmental and human rights community. Barack Obama, awarding Robinson the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, praised her as an “advocate for the forgotten and the ignored,” noting that she has “not only shone a light on human suffering but illuminated a better future for our world.” Read More >

President Robinson first rose to international prominence as President of Ireland from 1990-97. She is widely regarded as a groundbreaking and transformational leader who elevated the public role of the Irish presidency, helping to shape modern Ireland in a period of rapid and unprecedented economic growth. From 1997-2002, Robinson served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also transforming that office through highly visible public advocacy.

She is a founding member and currently the Chair of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders formed by Nelson Mandela to tackle the world’s most pressing problems. President Robinson served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, sounding the alarm as extreme weather events dramatically affected the world’s most vulnerable populations. She served as Vice President of the Club of Madrid, chair and co-founder of the Council of Women World Leaders, serves on numerous boards including the European Climate Foundation and chairs the newly formed Centre for Sport and Human Rights. She was honorary president of Oxfam International from 2002 to 2010 and has chaired numerous bodies, including the GAVI Alliance, which vaccinates children worldwide.

Since 1998, President Robinson has also served as Chancellor of The University of Dublin (Trinity College). A committed European, she has been active in the European Community and Irish parliamentary committees. In her earlier career, President Robinson was a crusading lawyer for women’s and human rights, arguing landmark cases in European and Irish courts. She has taught at Trinity College and Columbia University, served in the Irish Senate for 20 years and co-founded the Irish Centre for European Law at Trinity College. A graduate of Trinity, King’s Inns Dublin and Harvard Law School, she holds honorary doctorates from more than 40 of the world’s most elite universities and is the recipient of the Indira Gandhi and Sydney Peace Prizes.

Earning consistent praise as an unforgettable keynote speaker, President Robinson brings the thought leadership of a former head of state, a grandmother’s passionately felt concern for the future and the compelling stories of the thousands she has met traveling the world as a champion for climate justice, human rights, gender equality and corporate responsibility. Known for touching hearts, expanding mindsets and sparking meaningful conversation, President Robinson frames humanity’s most daunting threat in highly solvable terms, leaving audiences hopeful and inspired to change the course of our planet’s future. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

One Young World Summit 2014

Climate Change and Human Rights

Project Dandelion

Mothers of Invention Podcast

Four Injustices Towards Sustainability

TEDTalk: Why Climate Change Is a Threat to Human Rights

Climate Crisis is Curable

Climate Justice in the Time of COVID-19


Hunger - Nutrition - Climate Justice Conference

Princeton-Fung Global Forum

I Talk About Climate Justice

Speech Topics

Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience & the Fight for a Sustainable Future

Holding her first grandchild in her arms in 2003, Mary Robinson was struck by the uncertainty of the world he had been born into. Before his 50th birthday, he would share the planet with more than nine billion people—people battling for food, water and shelter in an increasingly volatile climate. The faceless, shadowy menace of climate change had become, in an instant, deeply personal. As a former UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, Robinson became one of the most important voices in the international fight against climate change. Her mission would lead her all over the world, from Malawi to Mongolia, and to a heartening revelation: that an irrepressible driving force in the battle for climate justice could be found at the grassroots level, mainly among women, many of them mothers and grandmothers like herself. Drawing from her stirring manifesto, Climate Justice, President Robinson tells the inspiring stories of these change-makers, sharing vital lessons for the path forward. By showing how one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time has been impacted by the ingenuity and resilience of real people, President Robinson inspires all of us to take action.

Women’s Leadership & Climate Justice

In this passionate keynote, Mary Robinson views the catastrophic threat of climate change through its unequal impact on the world’s women. She also makes an inspiring case for hope, illustrated by the many women-led grassroots efforts that are having a real impact. From a Mississippi matriarch whose campaign began in her East Biloxi hair salon and culminated in her speaking at the United Nations to a small farmer who transformed the fortunes of her ailing community in rural Uganda, President Robinson shares remarkable and inspiring examples from her latest book, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future. Noting that societal and cultural roles in many parts of the developing world place a greater burden on women as providers of food, water and fuel, President Robinson calls for gender-sensitive climate policies that address the reality of women’s needs. She also calls upon all of us as women, mothers, grandmothers and others to fight for climate justice in our own communities.