By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has decided not to seek another term when her mandate expires in September, she announced Monday in Geneva.
Robinson, who has held the position since 1997 when she resigned early as president, said she believed she could achieve more "outside of the constraints that a multilateral organization inevitably imposes."
Robinson said the decision had not been an easy one but she would continue to work "wholeheartedly" for human rights.
"The UN is the most important international organization in the world and I will continue to support it in whatever way I can," she said.
Robinson spokes of the difficulties and constraints she has faced.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
"When you stand up to large countries, when you are an awkward, open, critical voice, you also build up resistances," she said.
She said that when large countries were criticized about human rights, they questioned the mandate and funding of her office.
She said her office gets less than 2 percent of the UN budget, "despite all the talk about human rights."
There were also difficulties with getting staff made permanent when they were working in difficult and dangerous conditions on short-term contracts in the world’s trouble spots.
"It is incredibly difficult to move the system," Robinson said. "I am not an inherent bureaucrat myself. I find it quite hard. I takes more than a year to bring on a senior staff person which you urgently need to fill a vacancy."
She said there had also been in increase in important mandates in recent times but not the resources to deal with them. "We are, to a certain extent, drowning in mandates," she said.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern paid a "warm and heartfelt" tribute to Robinson, describing her appointment to the top UN job as a source of "great national pride."
"For over 30 years in public life, as a senator, as president and as UN commissioner, she has been an inspiring advocate for the dignity and fundamental rights of every person," Ahern said.
"The landmark cases she undertook as a lawyer, the causes she advocated as a senator and the many groups she identified with as president, are testimony to her commitment to justice."
Robinson faces a busy last six months in office in the run-up to the World Conference on Racism, to be held in South Africa from Aug. 31 until Sept. 7.
In the meantime, the commission of 53 members will consider reports on human rights in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Iran, Iraq and Chechnya, among other countries or regions.