Born on 21 May 1944 in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland, Mary Robinson was called to the bar in 1967 and, two years later, became the youngest Reid Professor of Constitutional Law at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1973, she became a member of the English Bar. She became a Senior Counsel in 1980, and served as a member of the Advisory Commission of Inter-Rights (1984-1990) and as a member of the International Commission of Jurists (1987-1990).
Mrs. Robinson was elected President of Ireland in 1990 after served as Senator for 20 years.She became the United Nations 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.
As United Nations High Commissioner, Mrs. Robinson gave priority to implementing the Secretary-General's reform proposal to integrate human rights into all the activities of the United Nations. She was the first Head of State to visit Rwanda in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide there. She was also the first Head of State to visit Somalia following the crisis there in 1992, and received the CARE Humanitarian Award in recognition of her efforts for that country. In September 1998, she visited China--the first High Commissioner to do so--and signed an agreement with the Government for OHCHR to undertake a wide-ranging technical-cooperation programme to improve human rights in that country. Mrs. Robinson also strengthened human rights monitoring in such conflict areas as Kosovo, in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.