Mary Lawlor has been working in human rights for over 35 years. Lawlor was chair of Amnesty International Ireland’s Board from 1983-1987, and then director of the organisation from 1988-2000. In 2001, she founded Front Line Defenders, the international foundation for the protection of human rights defenders.
Front Line Defenders concentrates all its activities on human rights defenders at risk who work non-violently for the rights of others as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The organisation’s aim is to protect defenders of human rights and provide them with ’round the clock’ practical support so that they can continue their work to build civil and just societies (Dublin Business School).
Lawlor was Director of Front Line Defenders from 2001 until 2016 when she decided to step down. As Director she represented the organisation and played a key role in its development. She led Front Line missions to the field, managed and evaluated programs, raised funds, and was invited as guest speaker to many international and intergovernmental meetings.
Mary Lawlor was awarded the King Baudouin International Development Prize in 2007, and the Irish Life WMB Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award the following year. In 2011, she received the Irish Tatler Woman of the Year Special Recognition Award. In 2014 she was awarded the French insignia of Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, and an honorary degree of Doctor in Laws from Trinity College Dublin. In 2015, she was appointed Adjunct Professor in the School of Business Trinity College Dublin. She also received the inaugural 2016 Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law (Smashing Times Women in an Equal Europe Book).
Mary Lawlor is currently on the Board of Directors, and a patron of, the Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Human Rights.