An international NGO based in Ireland the Mary Robinson Foundation tackles climate justice issues, in countries that do not have a large impact on climate change.
Mission and Purpose
The Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice is based in Ireland and works globally. The goal of the organization is to tackle climate justice issues in three main areas: Human Rights and Climate Change, Women’s Leadership on Gender and Climate Change, and Future Generations. The majority of their work takes place in G40 cities and countries that do not have a large impact on climate change. The organization has completed a number of successful projects and continues to make a significant impact on climate justice for many individuals around the world.[iii]
The Mary Robinson Foundation’s mission statement is:
- To put justice and equity at the heart of responses to climate change, particularly those concerned with how best to respond and adapt to the challenge that it poses for the poorest and most vulnerable peoples of the world
- To empower poor and vulnerable communities to speak directly in a way that is effectively heard both about the negative impact of climate change on their ways of life, about its potential for conflict, and about what ought to be done by way of a response, in terms of fairness and justice
- To facilitate a hearing for such communities to be able to voice their concerns about the negative impact of responses to climate change which are too rooted in technology and as a result insensitive to time and place
- To help shape an international framework which minimizes the negative impact which climate change is having on poor communities around the world
- To imprint on future generations, of leaders in this field and in society generally, a strong sense of the inter-connectedness of climate change with issues of development and social justice through the promotion of a strong human rights dimension to university learning and education on climate change
- To build a shared space for information and knowledge-sharing on climate justice which is accessible to all and a source of solidarity for those concerned about climate change
- To catalyze the work of activists, individuals, groups and networks, to further the implementation of the Principles of Climate Justice
- To promote the development of technologies that result in sustainable development and promote a better quality of life among the poor and vulnerable [i]
Origins and Development
The Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice was founded in 2010 by Mary Robinson. Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland, was in power from 1990-1997. She was also the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002. During her time with the UN and as the president of Ireland, Mary was deeply affected by the extensive suffering she witnessed around the world, especially that of women. She took an interest in climate change because of the impact it had on people. Determined to dedicate resources to combat climate justice issues, Mary Robinson established the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice on February 8th, 2010 under the Innovation Alliance of Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin. Both Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin generously supported the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice with significant donations.[ii]
Today, the Foundation is based in Ireland but works globally to tackle climate justice issues. The organization has completed a number of successful projects and has made a significant impact on climate justice in many countries. Their work typically focusses on G40 countries which do have a comparatively smaller impact on climate change. Mary Robinson continues to act as the president of the organization.[iii]
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
The Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice is run by a board of trustees, with a CEO. Mary Robinson, as acting president of the organization, provides visionary leadership for the organization. The organization’s board of trustees and CEO are responsible for decision making. In addition to the CEO and board of trustees, the Mary Robinson Foundation has an International Advisory Council which has extensive international expertise and experience. They are available to provide guidance to the CEO and board of trustees.[iv]
The organization pays its employees. It is a non-profit organization that is funded by a variety of organizations and donors. The initial funding for the organization was supplied by Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin. Today, the organization is sustained through government funding, donors, and investments. Financial decisions are managed in a top-down way, with all decisions made through the CEO and the board of directors.
Specializations, Methods and Tools
The Mary Robinson Foundation takes a participatory approach to much of their work surrounding climate justice. They focus their work in three main areas: Human Rights and Climate Change, Women’s Leadership on Gender and Climate Change, and Future Generations. Within each of these categories, the Mary Robinson Foundation uses a three-prong participatory approach: Leadership, Bridging, and Convening. This method allows the organization to use its unique position among civil society and policy makers to bring a participatory approach to stakeholder engagement to promote climate justice.
- Leadership: The Mary Robinson Foundation has established itself as a thought leader (or an informed opinion leader in their specific field) on climate justice. The organization continues to be on the cutting edge of development in the field of climate justice.[v]
- Bridging: The Mary Robinson Foundation builds bridges between people and disciplines. For example, the Mary Robinson Foundation works to connect grassroots women lead initiatives with policy makers and world leaders. These connections directly convene and amplify the voices of the vulnerable. While other organizations in similar positions use a siloed approach (keeping experts and those within the process separate), the Mary Robinson Foundation works the opposite way. It strives to build bridges between the experts and those who are part of the process.[vi]
- Convening: Mary Robinson is the organization’s largest convening power. Mary Robinson’s platform and international recognition allows the organization to bring a number of actors together. This is one of the organizations largest strengths. For example, they are able to convene the UN, government, and civil society partners on cases. On addition, the Mary Robinson Foundation always emphasize gender balance during convening processes. [vii]
In addition to using a Leadership, Bridging, and Convening approach, the Mary Robinson Foundation uses the Principles of Climate Justice to guide their decision making.[viii] The Principles of Climate Justice demands a “leave no one behind” approach and seeks to ensure a human-centered approach that safeguards the rights of the most vulnerable . The Principles of Climate Justice are: Support the Right to Development, Share Benefits and Burdens of Equitably, Ensure the Decisions on Climate Change are Participatory, Transparent, and Accountable, Highlight Gender Equality and Equity, Harness the Transformative Power of Education and Climate Stewardship, and Use Effective Partnerships to Secure Climate Justice.[ix]
Major Projects and Events
The Mary Robinson Foundation has initiated a number of participatory projects around the world. The organization categorizes their work into two main areas – case studies and special projects. Below are a few examples of their case study work. These cases focus on people centered climate action and climate justice.
This project was a case study that focused on El Salvador, Chile and Vietnam. The project created a policy brief that demonstrated the positive impacts of women’s participation on the design, planning, and implementation of climate policy and in doing so, highlighted the benefits of supporting women’s participation in gender-responsive climate change.
The project was a case study in Maradi, Niger. The organization worked with women in the region to identify ways to improve local livestock and crop diversity and improve soil and water management. Additionally, the organization helped women in the region pool financial and labour resources.
This project took place in Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Russia. Arctic regions are facing major changes to food security for the 160,000 indigenous Inuit due to rapidly changing climate and economic situations. This project worked with communities in all four Arctic regions to identify ways to create better food security.
In addition to case study projects, the Mary Robinson Foundation takes on special projects, such as conferences, to further facilitate participatory events. Below are a few examples of these events:
- Hunger, Nutrition Climate Justice – Conference
- The Many Faces of Climate Justice: Exploring the Principles of Climate Justice – Conference
The Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice produces numerous publications including policy papers, research articles, case studies, and briefings. A complete publication resource list can be found here.
[ii] Gearty, C. (2014). An interview with Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, 5(0), 18–21. https://doi.org/10.4337/jhre.2014.02.03
[vi] Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice. (2010). Working for a just response to climate change.
[viii] Gearty, C. (2014). An interview with Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, 5(0), 18–21. https://doi.org/10.4337/jhre.2014.02.03
Lead image: Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice https://goo.gl/dkMjS2