'Global challenges need global solutions.' This was Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's main message in the first annual Giorgio La Pira Lecture, organised by the EUI's School of Transnational Governance and the Fondazione CR Firenze.
International aid and Liberia’s recovery
In her address to a room full of attentive listeners, President Sirleaf described her experience leading Liberia out of what she called a ‘very deep hole’. Thanks to international cooperation, the former President explained, Liberia was able to grow and embark on a peaceful path to greater social development, characterised by enhanced women’s rights, free speech, and a more socially inclusive society.
She pointed to the defeat of Ebola in Liberia, during the West-African outbreak in 2013-2016, as another example of how multinational teamwork is of fundamental importance. From the courage and dedication of local health workers, to the contribution of the international science and health communities, actors at every level joined to solve a devastating challenge that respects no borders.
Sirleaf argued that the most pressing issues of the day, namely international migration and climate change, demand international cooperation. ‘The international community can be partners to reduce poverty, war and improve governance’ […] ‘It can help solve the problems that force people to leave their homelands’.
‘Let the women rise’
Throughout her speech, Sirleaf was extremely clear about the important role women play in developing enduring solutions for peace. ‘Women leaders are more likely to bring peace and spend money on social programmes. […] They must be at the table’.
Sirleaf also mentioned the inspiration she finds in young women leaders such as Greta Thunberg. ‘Look’, she said, ‘at what one teenage girl has accomplished. Greta Thunberg joins the many women of the world who are left behind’. The global south, Sirleaf reminds us, suffers climate change the most, with more hunger and loss of livelihood, especially for women and families.
‘Let the women rise!’ she declared, to full applause.
In her conclusion, the Nobel Laureate lauded the EUI for its effort, through the School of Transnational Governance, to train leaders to solve the complex global problems we face today.
A video interview with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, marking her inaugural Giorgio La Pira lecture, will be published on this website in the weeks ahead.