Peter Denis Sutherland (25 April 1946 – 7 January 2018) was an Irish businessman, barrister and politician who served as UN Special Representative for International Migration from 2006 to 2017, Chairman of Goldman Sachs from 1995 to 2015, Director-General of the World Trade Organization from 1993 to 1995, European Commissioner for Competition from 1985 to 1989 and Attorney General of Ireland from 1981 to 1982 and 1982 to 1994.

He was a barrister by profession and was a Senior Counsel of the Irish Bar. He was known for serving in a variety of international organisations, political and business roles.

Sutherland was the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration until March 2017.[1][2] Appointed in January 2006, he was responsible for the creation of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).[3] He served as President of the International Catholic Migration Commission, as well as member of the Migration Advisory Board of the International Organisation for Migration.

Sutherland previously served as Attorney General of Ireland (1981–84), European Commissioner responsible for Competition Policy (1985–89); Founding Director-General of The World Trade Organisation,[4] formerly GATT (1993–95), and former Chairman of Goldman Sachs International (1995–2015).[5] He received numerous awards including European Person of the Year Award (1988).

Early and personal life

Of Irish nationality, Sutherland was born in Dublin in 1946 and was educated at Gonzaga College, Ranelagh, Dublin. He is of partial Scottish ancestry. He graduated in Civil Law at University College Dublin and practiced at the Irish Bar between 1969 and 1980.[6] He married his wife, Maruja Sutherland, a Spaniard, in 1974.[7]

Entry into politics

Sutherland was appointed Attorney General of Ireland in June 1981, resigning in March 1982 and taking the post again between December 1982 and December 1984.[8]

EU Commissioner

He was appointed to the European Commission in 1985 and had responsibility for competition policy and, initially for 1985 only, also for education. He said that he was especially pleased to have proposed the establishment of the ERASMUS programme (European Regional Action Scheme for Mobility of University Students) that allows European university students to study in other member states.[9]

He was Chairman of the Committee that produced The Sutherland Report on the completion of the Internal Market of the EEC, commissioned by the European Commission and presented to the European Council at its Edinburgh meeting in 1992.[10]

He was the youngest ever European Commissioner and served in the first Delors Commission, where he played a crucial role in opening up competition across Europe, particularly the airline, telecoms, and energy sectors. Sutherland was described as "an outstanding Commissioner".[11]

GATT/World Trade Organization

In 1993, he became Director-General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade Organisation). Later Mickey Kantor, the US Trade Minister, credited him with being the father of globalization and said that without him there would have been no WTO.[12] The Uruguay round of global trade talks, concluded in December 1993 with Sutherland as chair of GATT, produced a "comprehensive, rules-based and global trade regime" [13] which was the biggest trade agreement in history and established the World Trade Organisation. His integral role in the successful conclusion of these negotiations has been cited as "indispensable".[14] Chairing the Uruguay Round, Sutherland "employed tactics the likes of which had never been seen before in GATT…he worked to create the sense of unstoppable momentum" by mobilising the press and media and instigating "a more aggressive public relations than the staid GATT had ever before seen".[15]

A 2013 book by Craig VanGrasstek of the Harvard Kennedy School, published by the WTO, The History and Future of the World Trade Organisation,[16] details Sutherland’s role in the formation and establishment of the body.

On the elevation of the role of director-general, VanGrasstek writes "The office is shaped to a great degree by the person who occupies it, and Director-General Peter Sutherland – who served both as the last GATT director-general and the first WTO director-general – redefined the role and the links between that office and the leadership in the members in a way that gave him and his successors additional options for the conduct of negotiations".[17] Sutherland was instrumental in elevating the office of director-general to one that dealt directly with presidents and prime ministers, not just ministers, a key factor in the success of negotiations and the political esteem of the body going forward.[18] Chairman of the Advisory Council to the Director General of the World Trade Organisation that produced the Report on the Future of the World Trade Organisation published in 2005.[19]


Sutherland was the Chairman of Allied Irish Banks (AIB) from 1989 until 1993.[20] [21].

He was also a non-executive Director of controversial construction materials giant CRH plc from 1989 to July 1993. Given that his preceding job was EU Competition Commissioner, this appointment proved to be somewhat of a dichotomy when CRH plc was fined in 1994 for its key role in the pan-European cement cartel (Case Number IV 33.126 AND 33.322).

He was non-executive Chairman of Goldman Sachs International (a registered UK broker-dealer, a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs) until June 2015. Until June 2009 he was non-executive chairman of BP being replaced by Carl-Henric Svanberg formerly chief executive officer of Ericsson. Sutherland was a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group until he was asked to leave the board when it had to be taken over by the UK government to avoid bankruptcy. He also formerly served on the board of ABB.[citation needed]

He served on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group,[22] until May 2014 and is an Honorary Chairman of the Trilateral Commission (2010 -), he was Chairman of the Trilateral Commission (Europe) (2001–10)[23] and was vice chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists (2006–09).[24]

He was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the European Institute of Public Administration (Maastricht) from 1991 to 1996.[25] He is Honorary President of the European Movement Ireland.[26]

He was a member of the Hong Kong Chief Executive's Council of International Advisers between 1998 and 2005.[27]

He produced the Sutherland Report for the Portuguese Government on the handover of Macao to China in January 2000.[28]

He was President of the Federal Trust for Education and Research, a British think tank. He was Chairman of The Ireland Fund of Great Britain from 2001 to 2009, part of The Ireland Funds.[29] He was a member of the advisory council of Business for New Europe, a British pro-European think-tank.[30]

He was a member of the Commission on Human Security set up by the Japanese Government that reported to the United Nations in 2003.[31]

In 2005, he was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.[32] In Spring 2006 he was appointed Chair of London School of Economics Council commencing in 2008.,[33] a position he held until February 2015.[34]

Sutherland also served on the International Advisory Board of IESE,[35] the graduate business school of Spain's University of Navarra.

In January 2006, he was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as his Special Representative for Migration. In this position, he was responsible for promoting the establishment of a Global Forum on Migration and Development, a state-led effort open to all UN members that is meant to help governments better understand how migration can benefit their development goals. The Global Forum was acclaimed by UN Member States at the UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, in September 2006, and will be launched in Brussels in July 2007.

On 5 December 2006, he was appointed as Consultor of the Extraordinary Section of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (a financial adviser to the Vatican).[36]

On 22 January 2010 he said while in Dublin that Ireland could not afford seven comprehensive top tier universities with research capabilities.[37][38][39]

In September 2010 ahead of the Irish government budget for 2011, Sutherland said of a proposed €3bn cut in expenditures, "The figure of €3 billion has been postulated as the improvement to be sought in the next budget," he said. "We are told that this is all that the political system can bear, but if all the mainstream political parties accept that more is required – although disagreeing perhaps about where to find the €3 billion – and are prepared to say it, we can find a way." Sutherland said a default on State debts would leave the Government without the capacity to manage its affairs or raise finance. "It simply is not an option to choose," he said.[40]

Sutherland was also co-Chairman of the High Level Group appointed by the Governments of Germany, the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Turkey to report on the conclusion of the Doha Round and the future of multilateral trade negotiations. Report issued in May 2011.[41]

In 2012, Sutherland became the honorary President of Brussels-based independent think tank the European Policy Centre.[42]

Last years

In an interview with The Irish Times in early 2010,[43] Sutherland revealed that in summer 2009, during a holiday, one of his children noticed a swelling on his throat while they sat on a beach. Within a week he was back home in London undergoing a major operation. Sutherland had an operation for throat cancer in August 2009 and following the operation he underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy.[43]

For Sutherland, a Europhile, the worst part about his illness was missing the "mortal combat" of fighting for the Yes vote in the second Lisbon referendum.[43]

Sutherland visited Irish politician (Fianna Fáil) Brian Lenihan to tell him what a great job he thought he was doing and to say that Lenihan had the potential to be one of the great taoisigh of the 21st century. Lenihan was taken aback, he says. Sutherland believes Ireland failed in economic terms over most of the past four decades with the exception of a "sparkling period" from 1994 to 2002 when the State took advantage of EU changes freeing up the movement of goods, capital and services across Europe.[43]

Outside banking, Sutherland in early 2010 finished a 13-year stint as chairman of BP, Europe’s largest oil company. At one point during his tenure, the company was valued on the stock market at £236 billion (it is currently worth about £120 billion) and was making £42 million a day in profits.[43]

He was twice offered the job of UN High Commissioner for Refugees by Kofi Annan, a fact, he says, that he has never disclosed publicly before, but he declined both times due to other commitments. He cites his work at GATT and the introduction of the Erasmus student exchange programme when he briefly held the education portfolio at the Commission in 1986 as his two most rewarding achievements.[43]

Regarding the next stage of his career, Surtherland disclosed that he has decided to join three boards – at German insurer Allianz; Koç Holding, Turkey’s largest conglomerate; and a shipping company, BW Shipping located in Singapore.[43]

In November 2010, he renewed his involvement in trade issues when he was appointed co-chair of an Experts Group, created by the heads of government of Germany, Great Britain, Indonesia and Turkey, to report on the priority actions to be taken to combat protectionism and to boost global trade. The Trade Experts Group's interim report was launched at Davos on 28 January 2011.


In September 2016, Sutherland suffered a heart attack while on his way to mass at a Catholic Church in London. Six months later, he resigned from his post as United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration because of poor health. He died in Dublin on 7 January 2018, following a long illness, aged 71.

Views on immigration

Sutherland strongly advocated liberal immigration policies and unrestricted immigration into the European Union. Sutherland gave his opinion to the UK’s House of Lords Home Affairs Committee on 21 June 2012 as being (a) that "at the most basic level individuals should have freedom of choice" about working and studying in other countries and that EU states should stop targeting "highly skilled" migrants (and, conversely, placing restrictions on low-skilled migrants). Sutherland also argues (b) that migration is a "crucial dynamic for economic growth" and that this is the case "however difficult it may be to explain this to the citizens of those states". Sutherland’s stated opinions on policy were (a) that "it was fundamentally important for states to cooperate on migration policy rather than developing their own policies in isolation as 'no state is or can be an island'"[44] (b) that multiculturalism is both inevitable and desirable: “It’s impossible to consider that the degree of homogeneity which is implied by the other argument can survive because states have to become more open states, in terms of the people who inhabit them” and also (c) that “the European Union, in my view, should be doing its best to undermine” any “sense of our homogeneity and difference from others”. An ageing or declining native population in countries like Germany or southern EU states was the "key argument and, I hesitate to the use word because people have attacked it, for the development of multicultural states", he added.[45]

Sutherland restated his view in the syndicated article co-authored with Cecilia Malmström entitled “Immigration challenge: Europe’s politicians should accept diverse social communities”, the opening paragraph of which declares:

“Europe faces an immigration predicament. Mainstream politicians, held hostage by xenophobic parties, adopt anti-immigrant rhetoric to win over a fearful public, while the foreign-born are increasingly marginalized in schools, cities and at the workplace. Yet, despite high unemployment across much of the Continent, too many employers lack the workers they need. Engineers, doctors and nurses are in short supply; so, too, are farmhands and health aides. And Europe can never have enough entrepreneurs, whose ideas drive economies and create jobs”.[46]

Sutherland and Malmström also argue in the above article that “Last year, during the Arab revolutions, the EU missed a historic opportunity to begin weaving together the two sides of the Mediterranean.” Sutherland is also quoted as arguing that opposition to greater globalisation is "morally indefensible".[47]

In January 2015, Sutherland took office as the President of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC).

Honours, awards and honorary doctorates

Sutherland has received a total of fifteen honorary doctorates from universities in Europe and America.[citation needed]

  • Honorary Fellow of OXONIA, The Oxford Institute For Economic Policy[48]
  • Honorary Doctorate of Law, St Louis University (1985)
  • The Gold Medal of the European Parliament (1988)
  • Robert Schuman Medal (1988)
  • The First European Law Prize (Paris 1988)
  • European Person of the Year Award (1988)
  • The David Rockefeller International Leadership Award (1998)
  • Grand Cross of Order of Civil Merit (Spain 1989)
  • The Irish People of the Year Award (1989)
  • Grand Cross of Order of Leopold II (Belgium 1989)
  • New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal (1990)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Law, National University of Ireland (1990)[49]
  • Knight of the Legion of Honour (France 1993)
  • The Consumer for World Trade Annual Award (1994)
  • Commandeur of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite (Morocco 1994)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Law, Bath University (1995)
  • Order of Rio Branco (Brazil 1996)
  • The Dean’s Medal, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, (1996)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Law, University of Reading (1997)[50]
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Infante Dom Henrique (Portugal 1998)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Law, Nottingham University (1999)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Law, Exeter University (2000)[51]
  • Foundation Day Medal, University College Dublin (2004)
  • Honorary Knighthood of the Order of St Michael and St George (UK 2004)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Law, Queens University, Belfast (2004)[52]
  • Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University of Sussex (2008)[53]
  • Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory (con placca) (2008)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Ireland Chamber of Commerce USA (2009)[54]
  • Honorary Fellowship of London School of Business
  • Honorary Vice President of the University College Dublin Law Society (2011)
  • Honorary Fellow of St Benet's Hall, Oxford (2013)
  • University College Dublin law school was renamed the Sutherland School of Law in his honour, following his financial contribution to the newly completed law teaching facility (2013)[55][56]
  • Knight Commander's cross, Order of the Polar Star, Sweden (2014)
  • UCD Economics Society Thomas Kettle Award (2016)


  1. ^ United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary- General for International Migration
  2. ^ "Secretary-General Appoints Louise Arbour of Canada Special Representative for International Migration Meetings Coverage and Press Releases". www.un.org. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  3. ^ "United Nations Population Division Department of Economic and Social Affairs". www.un.org. Retrieved 2016-03-01. 
  4. ^ World Trade Organisation. "Peter Sutherland, GATT and WTO Director-General, 1993 to 1995". 
  5. ^ Noonan, Laura; Correspondent, Investment Banking (2015-05-20). "Peter Sutherland bows out as Goldman Sachs International chairman". Financial Times. ISSN 0307-1766. Retrieved 2016-03-01. 
  6. ^ The questions Peter Sutherland, the globe's grandee, was NOT asked by the Lords EU sub-committee, Daily Mail, 27 June 2012
  7. ^ Private jets fly south for Sutherland marriage, Irish Independent, October 4 2009
  8. ^ Peter Sutherland: Former attorney general who headed world trade body, The Irish Times, January 7, 2018
  9. ^ Katherine Donnelly: A world of opportunity has opened up for all, Irish Independent, September 18 2017
  10. ^ "Archive of European Integration". 
  11. ^ The European Commission 1973–1986: History and Memories of an Institution (Eric Bussiere ed., 2014)
  12. ^ Leadership at a time of transition and turbulence, Gresham Lecture, Tuesday 8 March 2011
  13. ^ "Ashgate Research Companion to International Trade Policy (Heydon & Woolcock, 2012, p. 58)]" (PDF). 
  14. ^ The History and Future of the World Trade Organization (Craig VanGrasstek, 2013, p.69)
  15. ^ The History and Future of the World Trade Organization (Craig VanGrasstek, 2013, p.70)
  16. ^ The History and Future of the World Trade Organization (Craig VanGrasstek, 2013)
  17. ^ The History and Future of the World Trade Organization (Craig VanGrasstek, 2013, p.46)
  18. ^ The History and Future of the World Trade Organization (Craig VanGrasstek, 2013, p.85)
  19. ^ The Future of the WTO
  20. ^ Peter Sutherland website Archived 3 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ WTO Bio of Sutherland
  22. ^ "Governance". Bilderberg Meetings. Archived from the original on 11 March 2014. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  23. ^ "The trilateral commission". Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  24. ^ European Round Table website Archived 10 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ Public Management and European Governance: The Role of EIPA PDF
  26. ^ "?". Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. 
  27. ^ "CE discusses economic issues with international advisers". Press release. 6 November 2003. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  28. ^ Macau in the context of EU-China relations Archived 6 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ The Ireland Funds website Archived 7 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ "BNE Party Conference Programme". Business for New Europe. Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  31. ^ "Final report for Commission on Human Security". 
  32. ^ "?". United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Archived from the original on 24 March 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  33. ^ "The latest press releases from LSE". LSE. Archived from the original on 7 December 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  34. ^ was chairman of the London School of Economics until February 2015
  35. ^ "IESE News – Top Stories". IESE Business school – University of Navarra. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  36. ^ The Guardian Business news
  37. ^ RTÉ. "Call for higher education system reform". Friday, 22 January 2010 15:57
  38. ^ The Irish Times – Saturday, 23 January 2010. "Sutherland says number of universities must be cut". Sean Flynn Education Editor.
  39. ^ The Irish Times – Last Updated: Friday, 22 January 2010, 13:21. "Call for fewer universities".
  40. ^ Cuts not enough – Sutherland
  41. ^ "Final Report of the High Level Trade Experts Group". 
  42. ^ http://www.epc.eu/about_governance.php
  43. ^ a b c d e f g "The ultimate social networker". The Irish Times. 30 January 2010. 
  44. ^ "The EU's Global Approach to Migration and Mobility" (PDF). UK Parliament. p. 48. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  45. ^ "EU should 'undermine national homogeneity' says UN migration chief". BBC News. 21 June 2012. 
  46. ^ Peter Sutherland and Cecilia Malmstrom on Europe’s Immigration Challenge – Project Syndicate
  47. ^ "The questions Peter Sutherland, the globe's grandee, was NOT asked by the Lords EU sub-committee". Daily Mail. London. 
  48. ^ "The Oxonia Website". 
  49. ^ Aguisíní Appendices PDF
  50. ^ "Times Higher Education list of Honorary Degrees for Bristol University". 
  51. ^ "University of Exeter list of Honorary Doctorates". 
  52. ^ Royal Irish Academy Annual Report 2002– 2003 PDF Archived 3 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  53. ^ "University of Sussex press release". 
  54. ^ "The Ireland Chamber of Commerce, American Celtic Ball Honorees 2008". Archived from the original on 21 January 2011. 
  55. ^ Minister gives green light for new law school
  56. ^ UCD officially opens €25 million Law School named after Peter Sutherland, University College Dublin, 2 December 2013

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Anthony J. Hederman
Attorney General of Ireland
Succeeded by
Patrick Connolly
Preceded by
John L. Murray
Attorney General of Ireland
Succeeded by
John Rogers
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Burke
Irish European Commissioner
Succeeded by
Ray MacSharry
Preceded by
Frans Andriessen
European Commissioner for Competition
Succeeded by
Leon Brittan
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Arthur Dunkel
Director-General of the World Trade Organization
Succeeded by
Renato Ruggiero
Civic offices
Preceded by
Otto Graf Lambsdorff
European Group Chairman of the Trilateral Commission
Succeeded by
Mario Monti