In 2003, the Right Honorable Lord Robertson of Port Ellen completed a stellar career in public service, culminating at the highest levels of the Government of the United Kingdom and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Lord Robertson began his career as an official of the General, Municipal and Boilermakers’ Union, responsible for the Scottish Whisky industry in 1968. After a decade of service, he was elected as a Labor Party representative to the House of Commons for Hamilton and Hamilton South at the age of 32 – to be reelected a total of five times. He quickly earned a solid reputation as a focused and committed public servant.
In Parliament, Lord Robertson advanced quickly to increasingly responsible positions. His record of significant accomplishments garnered him numerous recognitions. His service and leadership during the Maastricht Treaty ratification merited his selection as joint Parliamentarian of the Year in 1993.
In 1993, Scotland on Sunday newspaper editorialized that “Robertson is meant for higher things.” After the 1997 general election, Prime Minister Blair fulfilled that prophecy and named Lord Robertson as his Minister of Defense. During his service at in that position, he led the UK’s active and crucial military role in the Kosovo conflict. He also pushed through a widely heralded series of reforms and modernizations of British forces during his tenure, and managing the UK participation in East Timor and in the 1998 air strikes in Iraq. In 1999, he was invited to serve as the tenth Secretary General of NATO and Chairman of the North Atlantic Council, succeeding Dr. Javier Solana. In the four turbulent years that followed, he presided over the dramatic restructuring and enlargement of the alliance, becoming the first leader of NATO to invoke the Article V mutual defense provision after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, and prodded NATO to deal more effectively with new threats of terrorism. He oversaw the successful involvement of NATO in Afghanistan, deftly managed the crisis over whether to provide Turkey with defense assets as the war in Iraq approached, and helped broker an end to a prospective civil war within Macedonia in 2001 through the use of NATO peacekeepers.
In November 2003, President George W. Bush presented him with the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor and only rarely given to foreign nationals. In the 2004 Queens New Years Honors he received one of Britain’s highest awards, the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George. He has the highest national honors from Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Poland, the Netherlands and many other countries. Since 1997, he has served as a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council.
In addition to his role with The Cohen Group, Lord Robertson will serve as the Executive Deputy Chairman of London-based Cable and Wireless. He will also serve as a Strategic Advisor to The Royal Bank of Canada as well as on other boards of directors.
Lord Robertson was born in the village police station in Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Scotland on April 12, 1946. His father and grandfather were village policemen (as are his brother, son and nephew), and his mother was a French teacher – a family tradition of self-discipline and service that he has continued. Lord Robertson attended the University of Dundee and received a Masters Degree with honors in economics in 1968. He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates by the Universities of Dundee and Bradford, Cranfield University (Royal Military College of Science), Baku State University of Azerbaijan, and by the Romanian National School of Political and Administrative Studies in Bucharest. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an Elder Brother of Trinity House. He resides in Scotland and London.