August 19, 2020

Former president of Ireland will hold virtual discussion on global challenges

by Pete Rosenbery

mary_robinson-sm.jpgCARBONDALE, Ill. – Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland who also served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, will share her thoughts on climate change, human rights, and other global issues during a virtual discussion next week hosted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

The free event is at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 26, and is open to the public. Registration is required and closes when the virtual discussion starts. 

Elected the first woman president in Ireland’s history, Robinson served from 1990 to 1997. Viewed as a transformative leader committed to human rights, Robinson resigned shortly before her term ended to serve the U.N. as High Commissioner for Human Rights until 2002. She later served as U.N. Special Envoy for Climate Change from 2014 to 2015.

“Mary Robinson is one of the most respected, even revered, leaders in the world,” John T. Shaw, Institute director, said. “She was a trailblazing president of Ireland and continues to be a powerful and passionate voice in support of human rights. President Robinson is also one of the leading advocates on the international stage for tackling the increasingly urgent challenge of global warming.”

Distinguished career

Robinson now chairs The Elders, a organization of independent world leaders created by Nelson Mandela, whose focus is on working for “peace, justice and human rights” through public and private diplomacy. The group includes former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former President Jimmy Carter.

Robinson served in Ireland’s parliament for 20 years before her election as president. From 2008 to 2019, Robinson served as chancellor of Trinity College Dublin and she is the school’s adjunct professor in climate justice. Her numerous awards and honors include Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2004, and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

She is the author of “Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice,” “Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future,” and “A Voice for Human Rights.”

Ongoing Institute Series

The discussion with Robinson is part of the Institute’s series with historians, political analysts, and state and national leaders. The series began in late April and has featured speakers including author and historian David M. Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Donald McHenry, Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago mayor, U.S. Congressman and White House adviser, Leon Panetta, former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA director, Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, and Carmen Rojas, president of the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

Registration is open for Robinson’s conversation

Registration for the free ZOOM meeting is available in advance. After completing registration, participants will receive an email confirmation with information about joining the meeting, along with the meeting ID and password. 

Participants have an opportunity when they register to submit a question to Robinson by email at or by including it in the “Questions and Comments” section on the registration form. 

More information on the Institute’s events is available at