Singapore, Born 1937
Professor Tommy Koh’s concern for justice can be traced to his high-school days when he resolved to help give voice to the voiceless.
“I have always been driven by the wish to build a better world,” says Professor Koh. For nearly four decades, the highly esteemed Singaporean has steadfastly served his country as a jurist, diplomat, environmentalist and vigorous champion of the arts. Formerly Singapore’s ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations, the much-awarded Koh today serves as ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as chairman of both the Institute of Policy Studies and the National Heritage Board.
Educated in law at the University of Singapore, Harvard and Cambridge, he became a respected lawyer and law professor. In 1967, when Koh was only 30, Singapore’s then prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, appointed him permanent representative to the UN, marking the start of his distinguished diplomatic career. Among his many accomplishments, he played a key role in negotiating the landmark 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and spearheaded the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development that helped the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro reach consensus.
Koh describes his approach to diplomacy as pragmatic idealism, a concept set out in one of his several publications, The Quest for World Order.
Published in 2006