Tommy Koh
Tommy Koh was born in Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 on 12 November 1937. He is an international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

yer, professor and Ambassador-At-Large for the Government of Singapore
Government of Singapore
The Government of Singapore is defined by the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore to mean the Executive branch of government, which is made up of the President and the Cabinet of Singapore. Although the President acts in his personal discretion in the exercise of certain functions as a check...

. He presently serves as Special Adviser at the Singapore Institute of Policy Studies
Institute of Policy Studies (Singapore)
The Institute of Policy Studies was established in 1988 as a think-tank dedicated to fostering good governance in Singapore through strategic policy research and discussion....

, Chairman of the National Heritage Board
National Heritage Board (Singapore)
The National Heritage Board is a statutory board of the Singapore Government, under the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts ....

 and Chairman of the Governing Board of the NUS Centre for International Law (CIL)
Centre for International Law (CIL)
The Centre for International Law was established in 2009 at the National University of Singapore’s Bukit Timah Campus in response to the growing need for international law expertise and capacity building in the Asia-Pacific region. The founding director of the Centre is Associate Professor Robert...

. He is on secondment from the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law
National University of Singapore Faculty of Law
The National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law is the older of Singapore's two law schools. The Faculty was initially established as the Department of Law in the then University of Malaya in 1956, with the first batch of students matriculating in the following year...


He was President of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea , also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea , which took place from 1973 through 1982...

, 1980–1982 and Chairman of the Main Committee of the UN Conference on Environment and Development
Earth Summit
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development , also known as the Rio Summit, Rio Conference, Earth Summit was a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 June to 14 June 1992.-Overview:...

, 1990–1992, where he presided over the negotiations on Agenda 21
Agenda 21
Agenda 21 is an action plan of the United Nations related to sustainable development and was an outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992...

. He has also served as Singapore's ambassador to the United Nations and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...


Koh was the first Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation
Asia-Europe Foundation
The Asia-Europe Foundation is an international, non-profit organization based in Singapore that was established in 1997 by the countries of the Asia-Europe Meeting...

, established in Singapore in 1997 by the countries of the Asia-Europe Meeting
Asia-Europe Meeting
The Asia–Europe Meeting was officially established in 1996 at the first summit in Bangkok. ASEM is an interregional forum which consists of the European Commission, the twenty-seven members of the European Union , the thirteen members of the ASEAN Plus Three regional grouping,, as of 2008, India,...


Koh graduated from Raffles Institution and received a Ll. B. (First Class Honours) degree from the University of Malaya in Singapore (now National University of Singapore
National University of Singapore
The National University of Singapore is Singapore's oldest university. It is the largest university in the country in terms of student enrollment and curriculum offered....

). He has a Ll. M from Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 and a post-graduate Diploma in Criminology from Cambridge University. He was conferred a full professorship in 1977. Prof Koh was awarded honorary degrees of Ll. D. from Yale University and Ll. D. from Monash University
Monash University
Monash University is a public university based in Melbourne, Victoria. It was founded in 1958 and is the second oldest university in the state. Monash is a member of Australia's Group of Eight and the ASAIHL....

. He has also received awards from Columbia University, Stanford University, Georgetown University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and Curtin University.

On August 9, 2008, Koh was conferred with the Order of Nila Utama (First Class) by the Singapore Government, for his outstanding contributions in the Singapore legislative team representing Singapore, in the Pedra Branca dispute
Pedra Branca dispute
The Pedra Branca dispute was a territorial dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over several islets at the eastern entrance to the Singapore Strait, namely Pedra Branca , Middle Rocks and South Ledge...

 case with the Malaysian government.

Professor Koh is currently a special advisor to the Institute of Policy Studies.

Selected writings

  • Tommy Koh, Five Years After Rio:Some Personal Reflections, UN Chronicle 1997, accessed at 29 August 2006
  • Tommy T.B. Koh and Amitav Acharya (ed.), The Quest for World Order: Perspectives of a Pragmatic Idealist, Times Academic Press, Singapore, 1997 ISBN 981-210-108-X


  • 1961 : Adrian Clarke Memorial Medal, University of Malaya (Singapore)
  • 1961 : Leow Chia Heng Prize, University of Malaya (Singapore)
  • 1971 : Public Service Star (Bintang Bakti Masyarakat), Singapore
  • 1979 : Meritorious Service Medal (Pingat Jasa Gemilang
    Pingat Jasa Gemilang
    The Pingat Jasa Gemilang , instituted in Singapore in 1962. The Medal may be awarded to any person who has performed service of conspicuous merit characterised by resource and devotion to duty, including long service marked by exceptional ability, merit and exemplary conduct within Singapore...

    ), Singapore
  • 1984 : Wolfgang Friedman Award, Columbia University Law School, New York
  • 1984 : Honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D), Yale University, Connecticut
    Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

  • 1985 : Jackson H. Ralston Prize, Stanford Law School
    Stanford Law School
    Stanford Law School is a graduate school at Stanford University located in the area known as the Silicon Valley, near Palo Alto, California in the United States. The Law School was established in 1893 when former President Benjamin Harrison joined the faculty as the first professor of law...

    , California
  • 1985 : Annual Award of the Asia Society, New York
  • 1987 : International Service Award, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
    Tufts University
    Tufts University is a private research university located in Medford/Somerville, near Boston, Massachusetts. It is organized into ten schools, including two undergraduate programs and eight graduate divisions, on four campuses in Massachusetts and on the eastern border of France...

    , USA
  • 1987 : Jit Trainor Award for Distinction in Diplomacy, Georgetown University
    Georgetown University
    Georgetown University is a private, Jesuit, research university whose main campus is in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Founded in 1789, it is the oldest Catholic university in the United States...

    , USA
  • 1990 : Distinguished Service Order Award (Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang
    Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang
    The Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang was instituted in 1968. It is awarded to any person who has performed within Singapore any act or series of acts constituting distinguished conduct...

    ), Singapore
  • 1993 : Commander, Order of the Golden Ark
    Order of the Golden Ark
    The Most Excellent Order of the Golden Ark was established by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1971 as an order of merit. Although not awarded by, it is recognized by the government of the Netherlands as a legal order. It is awarded to people for major contributions to nature conservation...

    , The Netherlands
  • 1996 : Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law, University of Brussels
  • 1997 : Grand Cross of the Order of Bernardo O'Higgins
    Bernardo O'Higgins
    Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme was a Chilean independence leader who, together with José de San Martín, freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. Although he was the second Supreme Director of Chile , he is considered one of Chile's founding fathers, as he was the first holder...

    , Chile
  • 1998 : Fok Ying Tung Southeast Asia Prize, Fok Ying Tung Foundation, Hong Kong (29 May)
  • 2000 : Commander, First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland
    Order of the Lion of Finland
    There are three official orders in Finland: the Order of the Cross of Liberty, the Order of the White Rose of Finland and the Order of the Lion of Finland . The President of Finland is the Grand Master of all three orders. The orders are administered by boards consisting of a chancellor, a...

  • 2000 : John Curtin Medal, Curtin University of Technology
    Curtin University of Technology
    Curtin University is an Australian university based in Perth, Western Australia, with additional campuses in regional Western Australia and at Miri , Sydney and Singapore...

    , Western Australia
  • 2000 : Grand Officer, Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
    Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
    The Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a distinguished honorary order of Luxembourg. It was instituted on January 23, 1961 by Grand Duchess Charlotte. Grandmaster of the order is the Grand Duke of Luxembourg...

  • 2000 : Distinguished Service to Arts Education, LASALLE-SIA College Award
  • 2001 : Officer in the Légion d'honneur
    Légion d'honneur
    The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

    , President of the French Republic
  • 2003 : Peace and Commerce Award for efforts at building trade links with the United States
  • 2004 : Outstanding Service Award, National University of Singapore on 12 May
  • 2004 : Encomienda of Isabel la Catolica, from His Majesty King Juan Carlos
    Juan Carlos I of Spain
    Juan Carlos I |Italy]]) is the reigning King of Spain.On 22 November 1975, two days after the death of General Francisco Franco, Juan Carlos was designated king according to the law of succession promulgated by Franco. Spain had no monarch for 38 years in 1969 when Franco named Juan Carlos as the...

     of Spain on 24 May
  • 2006 : Champions of the Earth
    Champions of the Earth
    The United Nations Environment Programme established Champions of the Earth in 2004 as an annual awards programme to recognize outstanding environmental leaders at a policy level...

    , United Nations Environment Programme
  • 2007 : Tatler Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement, Singapore Tatler magazine
  • 2009: Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star
    Order of the Rising Sun
    The is a Japanese order, established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji of Japan. The Order was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese Government, created on April 10, 1875 by decree of the Council of State. The badge features rays of sunlight from the rising sun...

    , 2009 (Japan).

See also

  • Koh, Buck Song (1996), Interview with Professor Tommy Koh in The Arts in Singapore, 1996, Singapore: National Arts Council and Accent Communications.

External links

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