Danilo Turk was born on February 19, 1952, in Maribor, Slovenia.
In 1971 he enrolled in the University of Ljubljana where he studied law. He obtained an MA with a thesis on minority rights from the University of Belgrade's Law School. In 1982, he obtained his PhD with a thesis on the principle of non-intervention in international law. In 1983, he became the director of the Institute for International Law of the University of Ljubljana. In the following years, he worked on minority rights. In the mid 1980s, he collaborated with Amnesty International to report on human rights issues in Yugoslavia. Between 1986 and 1992, he served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Realization of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
In 1990, he returned to Slovenia as member of the Constitutional Commission of the Slovenian National Assembly. From 1992 to 2000, Türk was first the Slovenian Permanent Representative to the United Nations. During this time, he was president of the United Nations Security Council in August 1998 and November 1999. Between 1997 and 1998, he was a member of the UN Human Rights Committee. From 2000 to 2005, he served as UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs. In 2005 he returned to Slovenia, becoming professor of international law and vice dean of student affairs at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ljubljana.
In June 2007 he accepted to run in the 2007 Slovenian presidential election. He won the run-off on 11 November 2007 by a landslide, with 68.2% of the votes, becoming the third president of Slovenia from 2007 to 2012.