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TANG PRIZE/Ex-Ireland President Mary Robinson awarded Tang Prize in Rule of Law

06/21/2024 03:20 PM
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Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson. CNA photo June 21, 2024
Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson. CNA photo June 21, 2024

Taipei, June 21 (CNA) Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, has been awarded the 2024 Tang Prize in Rule of Law for her decades-long dedication to global advocacy of such causes as climate justice and human rights, the award's selection committee announced Friday.

Robinson has demonstrated "an effective combination of legal acumen and practical solutions" in her "powerful advocacy" for climate justice, human rights, gender equality, and poverty alleviation, said Chang Wen-chen (張文貞), chair of the Tang Prize Selection Committee for Rule of Law.

She "innovatively transformed the various positions in which she served to promote human rights, gender equality, the rights of the minority, and most importantly, rule of law," said Chang, a National Taiwan University (NTU) law professor, at a press event in Taipei.

On the global stage, she has called for the private sector to shoulder responsibility for gender equality and climate justice, while advocating the need for women's participation in climate-related decision-making, Chang said.

The Tang Prize is a biennial award established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin (尹衍樑), chairman of the Ruentex Group, to honor people who have made prominent contributions in four categories -- sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology, and rule of law.

A cash prize of NT$40 million (US$1.23 million) and an additional NT$10 million in research funding are allocated to each award category, according to the organizer of the awards, the Tang Prize Foundation.

Related news: Mary Robinson: A trailblazer in climate justice, human rights advocacy

Robinson, now 80, has since 2018 chaired The Elders, an international NGO founded by former South African President and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela more than a decade ago.

Another member of the group, Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway and former head of the World Health Organization, is also a Tang Prize laureate, having received the Sustainable Development Award in 2014.

As the chairperson of the group, Robinson has spoken out against climate injustice, maintaining that protecting individuals and communities from the climate crisis should be an integral part of human rights promotion.

CNA photo June 21, 2024
CNA photo June 21, 2024

Robinson's previous global roles have included serving as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights from 1997 and 2002 and the U.N. special envoy on climate and other initiatives from 2014 to 2016.

Li Pei-jung (李佩蓉), a postdoctoral researcher at NTU's College of Law, said that as the U.N. high commissioner, Robinson consistently "urged the U.N. to take proactive actions to enhance human rights protections."

She traveled globally to "strengthen human rights monitoring" and "drew global attention to the human rights and justice issues faced by the most disadvantaged groups," Li said at the press conference.

In addition, Robinson "bravely addressed sensitive issues," Li said, mentioning in particular her promotion of prisoners' rights in U.S. military-controlled Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and her visit to Tibet in 1998 following Beijing's crackdown on a peaceful demonstration there.

Before becoming a global voice, Robinson was president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, and throughout her time in office, she transformed the ceremonial role into a strong voice for human rights at home and abroad, according to Li.

Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson speaks to CNA in a recent interview in Dublin. CNA photo June 21, 2024
Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson speaks to CNA in a recent interview in Dublin. CNA photo June 21, 2024

Robinson was the first foreign head of state to visit Somalia during the 1992 famine, and Rwanda after the genocide in 1994.

Born in May 1944 in the north of Ireland, Robinson grew up inspired by her grandfather and started her career as a barrister in 1967 to represent minority groups in court.

According to Li, Robison was elected senator in 1969 at the age of 25, and in the following two decades, she introduced and supported bills on gender equality and pushed for reforms in a relatively conservative society.

Beyond serving in public positions for the better part of six decades, Robinson has continued to work in academia.

She has contributed to legal education since 1969 around the world as a law professor and written extensively on the topics of human rights and climate justice.

Currently, she remains an adjunct professor for climate justice at her alma mater Trinity College Dublin.

(By Teng Pei-ju)

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