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Human Rights and Ethical Globalization

I go visit Colombia or East Timor or Afghanistan, but they stay there and work day in and day out. I also have a sense of having built a very effective office for human rights and putting, I hope, the stamp of integrity on the human rights agenda. This is recognized by all countries and all governments-that the office of the high commissioner for human rights is not politicized, we are not selective, and we operate an agenda that is broad-based.

-Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson became High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 1997, following her nomination to the post by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the endorsement of the General Assembly. Her appointment to the U.N. post had strong U.S. backing; President Clinton called her a "splendid choice" and pledged his administration's full cooperation with her mandate.

As High Commissioner, Robinson gave priority to implementing the reform proposal of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to integrate human rights concerns in all the activities of the United Nations. She also oversaw a reorientation of the priorities of her Office, which increasingly focused its work where it matters most: at the country and regional levels. As part of this focus, she traveled during her first year as High Commissioner to Rwanda, South Africa, Colombia, and Cambodia, among other countries. In September 1998, she was the first High Commissioner to visit China. Under a similar process, the High Commissioner has sent human rights workers to Indonesia and to countries in Europe and Africa. Robinson also strengthened human rights monitoring in such conflict areas as Kosovo, in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Robinson came to the United Nations after a distinguished seven-year tenure as President of Ireland (1990-1997). 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.

Mrs. Robinson 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, receiving the CARE Humanitarian Award in recognition of her efforts for that country.

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).

President Robinson's lecture is jointly sponsored by the Res Publica Society of Claremont McKenna College and the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. Dinner reservations are for CMC persons only. The talk beginning at 6:45 p.m. is open to all, no reservations necessary.