Mary Robinson receives 2016 Stockholm Human Rights Award and talks about the world today

Watch video

Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was presented with the 2016 Stockholm Human Rights Award on Wednesday 23 November 2016 during a ceremony held at Sweden’s Berwaldhallen concert hall. The presentation was made by Anne Ramberg,Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, before an audience of more than 1,000 people, including the President of the International Bar Association (IBA) David W Rivkin, Sweden’s Prime Minister’s State Secretary Hans Dahlgren, Swedish cabinet ministers and representatives from the diplomatic corps, the judiciary, the legal profession, academia and human rights organisations.

Conferred annually, the Stockholm Human Rights Award is given by the Swedish Bar Association, the IBA and the International Legal Assistance Consortium to a person, or an organisation, in recognition of outstanding service in the support and furtherance of human rights and the rule of law.

Mary Robinson (left) receives the 2016 Stockholm Human Rights Award from Anne Ramberg

In her opening remarks, Ms Ramberg described Ms Robinson as: ‘One of the most important voices – and doers – in the world for human rights.’ And went on to say: ‘She has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. She is a role model, who has always sought to use the law for social change.’

During her acceptance speech Ms Robinson said she was very honoured and humbled to be the Stockholm Human Rights Award recipient, and that the she did not receive the award personally, but on behalf of all those who struggle for human rights. She said: ‘It is a troubled time for our world. It is a time with too much hate speech, xenophobia, racism and sexism that should not be part of civilised society, but are increasingly part of the discourse in this very troubled time. In receiving the award in such a troubled time, I’m reminded of something very fundamental, which all of us working in human rights know all too well: it is, and always has been, a struggle. It’s to the people on the margins, those in the coalface of human rights, those who struggle so hard for human rights, that I dedicate this award.’

A frank and wide-ranging interview with IBA Executive Director Mark Ellis followed her acceptance speech, in which the she commented on her core beliefs about human rights, climate change justice, the recent results of the United Kingdom referendum on whether to remain within or exit the European Union and the election of the next President of the United States. The following extracts provide essence of what was said: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human rights, this is Article 1 of the UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights]. If only we had a world in which this were true… Climate change is undermining the most basic rights – to food and water. You have the worst droughts, the worst flooding… Sixty million people are in a hidden humanitarian disaster… I don't think that governments are going to walk away from the 2030 agenda. A number of the poorest countries are saying they will go carbon neutral… There is the challenge to the richer countries… This is the biggest reason for human solidarity… We have to do it with more determination. The climate change agreement is an example of multilateralism that is working. This is how we have to do it.’

During the interview with Dr Ellis, Ms Robinson observed and warned: ‘There is a bit of fear, which has been whipped up by populism – the populist Trump, the populist Brexit… We need to get back to a reality based on facts and evidence… The EU must remember its real values, which were not argued in Brexit… We are in a bleak time of populism but we will get back to our values, and we must do it quickly.’

Concluding the evening, Dr Ellis said to Ms Robinson: ‘I would like to ask you to accept, on behalf of all of us, appreciation for everything you have done and everything you continue to do, because the world needs leaders like you.’

Ms Robinson, the eighth Stockholm Human Rights Award laureate and a staunch advocate for global justice for the poor, the disempowered and the marginalised across the world, was given an extended standing ovation. 

Photo courtesy of Tom Knutson


Notes to the Editor

  1. Video footage of the interview will be available at from 25 November 2016.

  2. The Stockholm Human Rights Award was established in 2009. Past recipients of the Award are:
    • 2015 Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein
    • 2014 B'Tselem
    • 2013 Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni
    • 2012 Thomas Hammarberg and European Roma Rights Centre
    • 2011 George Soros and Aryeh Neier
    • 2010 Navi Pillay
    • 2009 Richard Goldstone

  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world's leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA's administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association's International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

  4. Twitter @IBAnews

For further information please contact:

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
Press Office
International Bar Association

4th Floor, 10 St Bride Street, London EC4A 4AD

Mobile: +44 (0)7940 731 915
Direct Line: +44 (0)20 7842 0094
Main Office: +44 (0)20 7842 0090
Fax: +44 (0)20 7842 0091



Swedish Bar Association



IBA website page link for this news release: