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Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Cooperation, collaboration, and women’s inclusion are essential to peace and development

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for increased women’s involvement in peacebuilding and peacekeeping processes during a recent high-level dialogue co-hosted by the Nobel Peace Center and the World Food Programme.

Delivering the keynote address at the virtual forum, which brought together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector, Madam Sirleaf—who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011—shared her belief that:

“The fundamental reason for the absence of peace sticking—the absence of ensuring that peace continues—is the absence of women at the peace table. There can be no lasting peace without women’s voices and agency.”

Madam Sirleaf pointed to research showing that women suffer disproportionately from conflictfurther emphasizing why women’s voices must be central to conflict negotiation and resolution. 

In addition to prioritizing gender equality, countries facing conflict should look to development as a means of achieving peace, Madam Sirleaf said. Reflecting on her time as Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Development Programme, Madam Sirleaf recalled how this experience led her to recognize that:

Equitable and sustainable development prevents conflicts and aids the foundation of peace. The Sustainable Development Goals, which are interlinked and integrated, a path to peace, justice, and prosperity.” 

Madam Sirleaf also highlighted that conversations about maintaining global peace must take the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic into account. Currently, inequitable distribution of vaccines presents an urgent problem as less-wealthy countries—including many in Africa— are struggling to procure and distribute vaccines quickly enough to control and eliminate the virus among their populations. As inequality grows, so too does the risk of instability, which poses a threat to peace.

To help alleviate the crisis of vaccine inequity and maintain international peace, Madam Sirleaf urged more countries to support the World Trade Organization’s temporary waiver on vaccine patents, which would enable less-wealthy nations to fund the research and production of vaccines, rather than relying on richer countries. 

Ultimately, global leaders must recognize “solidarity, collaboration, and multilateralism” as central elements when it comes to maintaining peace and encouraging development, Madam Sirleaf said. 

Watch a recording of the discussion, ‘Breaking Down the Silos: A Cooperative Approach,’ here.

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