Elisabeth Mann Borgese, born in Germany on 24th April 1918, was the fifth of six children of Katja Pringsheim and Thomas Mann. She emigrated to USA with her parents in 1938, married Giuseppe Antonio Borgese in 1939 and had two daughters.
Known worldwide as "The Mother of the Oceans", Elisabeth Mann Borgese dedicated all her life to the understanding of ocean matters, to the development of a constitution for the oceans and to the consideration of the oceans as a "great laboratory for the making of a new international order based on new forms of international cooperation and organisation, on a new economic theory, on a new philosophy."
She was a passionate campaigner for a world order founded on distributive justice and, therefore, on the doctrine of the common heritage, espoused with her good friend Arvid Pardo. To her, the sea offered the best laboratory for the application of a set of ethical principles guiding humanity to the equitable use of natural resources. Before moving to Canada to take up the role of professor of political science and adjunct professor of law at Dalhousie University, she was a senior fellow at the Center for Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California. It was there that she launched her ocean project over forty years ago, which led to establishment of the Pacem in Maribus Conference series with PIM I in 1970 and the foundation of the International Ocean Institute in 1972.
She was an active member of the Club of Rome and the World Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an associate member of the Third World Academy. She served as a consultant to UNEP, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the World Bank and her work was recognized with several prestigious honours. Professor Mann Borgese authored more than a dozen books and many research papers and editorials and was awarded several doctorates honoris causa.
Elisabeth Mann Borgese died on February 8th, 2002.
A number of distinguished personalities have written about Elisabeth Mann Borgese and her life’s work:
“Elisabeth was a visionary, who expended enormous energy trying to convince politicians and academics around the world about the need for new models of ocean governance”
J. Guddal, F. Bailet, G. Kullenberg, WMO Bulletin, Vol. 52 No. 1
“Her contribution to the cause of the common heritage of mankind has been fundamental and unique”.
Hon Guido de Marco, President Emeritus of Malta
“She managed to make a miracle of transforming perfect dreams into reality and gave us an example of how we all may try to put our ideas into life”.
Valery Eremeev, President of the Oceanological Centre of Ukraine
“She has done her best, she has run the full distance and she has kept the torch alight in the Foundations of the Ocean – Pacem in Maribus”.
Noel Brown, President of the Friends of UN
“She was a treasure, and her life becomes part of the “common heritage” of mankind”.
D. Krieger, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
“Prof. Mann Borgese was a wonderful and a brilliant political scientist. She was one of the great environmental heroes, a true champion for the oceans”.
Klaus Toepfer, former Executive Director of UNEP
Doctorates honoris causa: