Tarja Halonen holds a Law degree from the University of Helsinki (1968). Her professional career started in the national Union of Finnish Students. She started as a lawyer in the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions in 1970 and joined the Social Democratic party in 1971. In 1974 she was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister. She was elected to Parliament for the first time in 1979. Halonen’s appointments have been: Minister of Social Affairs and Health in, Minister of Justice, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister responsible for Nordic co-operation. At the Council of Europe, she has served as Deputy-Chair of the Finnish Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly, and later in the Ministerial Committee. She was also a Member of the Committee of Wise Persons of the Council of Europe in 1998–99. She was elected president of Finland in 2000 and was re-elected in 2006. During her presidency, Tarja Halonen has served as co-chair of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, appointed by the International Labour Organization ILO, and served as the Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders.

In August 2010, she was appointed co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability. She continues to work closely with the UN and is currently member of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. She is also alternate co-chair of the Every Woman Every Child Movement’s Steering Group, UN Global Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and UN Drylands Ambassador. She joined the Club de Madrid in 2012, ratified by the XI General Assembly.