Mary Robinson became High Commissioner for Human Rights on 12 September 1997, following her nomination to the post by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the endorsement of the General Assembly. Mrs. Robinson assumed responsibility for the UN human rights programme at a time of great change. As she took up her post in Geneva, the Office of the High Commissioner and the Centre for Human Rights were consolidated into a single Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Under her leadership, the Office has been gearing up to better face existing and emerging human rights challenges, harnessing the energies of new actors in the global quest for a universal culture of respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.
Mrs. Robinson came to the United Nations after a distinguished seven-year tenure as President of Ireland. As President, Mrs. Robinson developed a new sense of Ireland's economic, political and cultural links with other countries and cultures. She placed special emphasis during her Presidency on the needs of developing countries, linking the history of the Great Irish Famine to today's nutrition, poverty and policy issues, thus creating a bridge of partnership between developed and developing countries.
Before her election as President in 1990, Mrs. Robinson served as Senator, holding that office for 20 years. In 1969 she became the youngest Reid Professor of Constitutional Law at Trinity College, Dublin. She was called to the bar in 1967, becoming a Senior Counsel in 1980, and a member of the English Bar (Middle Temple) in 1973. She also served as a member of the International Commission of Jurists (1987-1990) and of the Advisory Commission of Inter-Rights (1984-1990). Educated at Trinity College, Mrs. Robinson also holds law degrees from the King's Inns in Dublin and from Harvard University.