Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) and more former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), 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.
A committed European, she also served on the International Commission of Jurists, the Advisory Committee of Interights, and on expert European Community and Irish parliamentary committees. The recipient of numerous honours and awards throughout the world, Mary Robinson is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Philosophical Society and, since 2002, has been Honorary President of Oxfam International. A founding member and Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, she serves on many boards including the Vaccine Fund, and chairs the Irish Chamber Orchestra.
Currently based in New York, Mary Robinson is now leading Realizing Rights: the Ethical Globalization Initiative. Its mission is to put human rights standards at the heart of global governance and policy-making and to ensure that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are addressed on the global stage.
Question: Are the days of the United States as the dominant global superpower coming to an end?
Mary Robinson: I think they have certainly changed and are no longer at all the way that the United States was perceived at the very beginning of this century; the year 2000, say. That’s reflected in the G20 and other developments. There should be a reform of the Security Council, the Security Council does not reflect the power balance and economic balance in our world today and so we need more urgent reform than we did because we recognize. At the same time, the United States is still a very, very powerful player. And I think there is a wisdom that the United States reengage again in these alliances and partnerships that are being spoken about by the Obama administration. I do believe that that’s the way for the United States to go.
Recorded September 21, 2010
Interviewed by Victoria Brown