Former President of Ireland and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson spoke in Campbell Hall on Friday to share her perspective on the global fight for human rights and reasons complicating its resolution.
The lecture, titled “Making Human Rights the Compass for All Ethical Globalization,” discussed the harmful effects global warming has on farmers in impoverished countries and followed Robinson’s three-hour graduate seminar on corporate responsibility held earlier that day. Robinson currently serves as Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.
During the seminar, Robinson said drastic climate change stemming from leading industrialized nations has a significant impact on the health and work capabilities of those in third world countries.
“Climate change is not something of the future; it is happening now and it is affecting the poor,” Robinson said. “The 15 poorest countries make up less than 1 percent of green house gas emissions.”
According to Robinson, Uganda now lacks seasonal weather and is host to unpredictable flash floods that often destroy their schools and make farming extremely difficult. An estimated 40,000 children in Somalia died during the famine declared this summer.
First-year biology major Nicole Franzman said the lecture fostered an understanding of the interconnectivity between national issues at a global scale.
“I had never really thought of climate change as anything more than an environmental issue,” Franzman said. “[The lecture] gave me a whole new perspective on things.”
Global and International Studies Director Richard Appelbaum said Robinson also shared knowledge about corporations’ environmental responsibilities gained from her experiences as a proponent for social change.
“It was such a great opportunity [for the graduate students] to work with someone as experienced as Robinson,” Appelbaum said.
Additionally, Robinson said the development of a coherent multinational approach toward human rights has faltered due to differences between various regional living situations and standards.
“I was troubled that in one part of the world … we tend to put an emphasis on one part of human rights: the civil liberties side,” Robinson said. “On the other side of the world, basic rights like the right to food, water and shelter [are emphasized]. We have to somehow link both sets of human rights.”
Robinson works with various international groups, including advocacy conglomerate Oxfam, a collection of 15 organizations that aid the world’s poorest demographics. Robinson said her foundation focuses more on trend analysis rather than immediate action.
“The Mary Robinson Foundation is less about courts and more about changing the narrative because it is so important from a human rights perspective,” Robinson said.