Ellen Johnson Sirleaf briefs the UN Security Council on protecting civilians affected by war from COVID-19

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf briefed the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) high-level video conference on May 27, on the theme of ‘Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.’

Madam Sirleaf addressed the UNSC alongside the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer and the President of the Republic of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid. The event was presided over by the Permanent Representative of Estonia to the United Nations, Sven Jürgenson. 

The video conference was an opportunity to discuss how to best help civilians affected by armed conflict in the context of new challenges, among them the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary-General Guterres made the opening briefing, saying:

“COVID-19 is not only spreading sickness and death, it is pushing people into poverty and hunger – in some cases, it is reversing decades of development progress. As access to services and safety is curtailed and some leaders exploit the pandemic to adopt repressive measures, it has become even more difficult to protect the most vulnerable. This is particularly true in conflict zones where civilians were already exposed to significant risks.”

Madam Sirleaf acknowledged the importance of the year 2020 –including the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on Equality – before beginning her address. In her briefing she noted that the most effective way to protect civilians affected by war is prevention, and called for solutions to end conflict:

“The most effective way to protect civilians is to prevent the outbreak, escalation, continuation, and recurrence of armed conflicts. A conflict averted does not often make headlines, but it saves lives and livelihoods, and in this regard, nothing could weigh more on our collective consciousness or on the desk of this council than the urgent need to stop ongoing conflicts and prevent new ones.”

She also called for unity in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic:

“Without regional and global solidarity, the whole world would be more deeply and tragically affected. From global health and human development to peace and climate change, we need more multilateralism, and not less. Only by working together can we find the cures for our common challenges, and make the world safer, better, and more peaceful.”

Watch the full conference here.

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