Former President of Ireland, Human Rights Champion to Speak at UW-Madison

DATE: September 17, 2008
CONTACT: Masarah Van Eyck,, 608-262-5590


MADISON – Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, will deliver a talk on “Human Rights in the 21st Century” for the Mildred Fish-Harnack Human Rights and Democracy Lecture at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 26, at the Microbial Sciences Building’s Ebling Symposium Center.

Robinson has been honorary president of Oxfam International since 2002. She is chair of the International Institute for Environment and Development and a founding member and chair of the Council of Women World Leaders. Robinson is also one of the European members of the controversial Trilateral Commission. The future of human rights is a driving theme of her organization, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, committed to placing human rights at the forefront of all global policy-making decisions.

“We couldn’t be more honored to have Mary Robinson stand before us. She has shaped the course of human rights in our lifetime,” says Florence Chenoweth, distinguished international visitor to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Chenoweth is former United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO) representative to the UN and executive director of the FAO Liaison Office in New York.

Robinson’s lecture publicly launches the Division of International Studies’ Human Rights Initiative, established to expand the definition of traditional human rights to include economic, social, and cultural rights. This sets it apart from other programs in the nation. Such a project underscores the university’s longstanding history of social activism and socially-oriented scholarship.

“The Wisconsin Idea, the primary doctrine for students and faculty, has been about capturing hope for a better world,” says Scott Straus, faculty coordinator of the initiative and one of its founding members.

“To have an international human rights champion like Mary Robinson introduce the initiative is not only an honor but an indication of the magnitude of good that this initiative can achieve,” says Gilles Bousquet, dean of the Division of International Studies. ###