Question: Beyond a simple title, how would you describe what you do for a living?
Mary Robinson:It’s very much rooted in the international agenda of human rights, particularly the universal declaration of human rights. But it’s not saying these are just words on paper. It’s saying, “How do we make this real and operational, particularly for the poorest and the most marginalized?” So now the focus of our work is on African countries mainly. Ireland is doing very well. I love going back there. I have grandchildren there. And it’s wonderful to see how prosperous modern Ireland is. And it’s a kind of hope for poor, developing countries because the change was very rapid. We work on health as a human right. We bring together ministers of health and try to support them in coping with the many interventions on health by ________ governments, by funds, by the World Health Organization, etc. I co-chair a high level body on the terrible brain drain of health workers out in Sub-Saharan Africa and in parts of South Asia, etc. – where there’s a high disease prevalence, poor health systems, but the doctors and nurses are leaving and coming to the United States and parts of Europe – and help to make that fairer. We work on decent work. One of the things about African countries is the populations are incredibly young. In many of them, well over 50% of the population is under 25, maybe under 20, and they have no jobs. So that’s a human rights issue.
Recorded on: 07/25/07