Nobel Peace Laureate Sirleaf to UN: “COVID-19 is our greatest test in living memory.”
29 May 2020
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia and a member of The Elders, addressed a high-level open videoconference (VTC) on the United Nations Secretary-General’s annual report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Invited because of her experiences leading Liberia through both the Ebola Crisis and its recovery from a decades-long civil war, President Sirleaf provided insights on how to manage the impact of COVID-19 on civilian populations in conflict and post-conflict situations. She urged the council to “act with boldness” to protect those trapped in conflict and “end the cycle of immeasurable loss and human tragedy.”
Turning to the impact of the COVID-19, President Sirleaf called the pandemic “our greatest test in living memory.” “How we pass this test will redefine the course of human history,” she said to the Council, including UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “Let us not fail ourselves, and posterity.” As she had during Liberia’s Ebola Crisis, President Sirleaf called for the world to work together in global solidarity, citing an urgent need to “reset the world to higher standards of international cooperation and peace.”
While extending her deepest condolences to all who have lost loved ones, President Sirleaf ended her speech on a highly hopeful note. “I do not know how many lives will be lost, or where growth projections and human development indices will be before this pandemic ends,” she said. “But I do know, as if we needed further proof, that we are more connected and interdependent than we have allowed ourselves to believe.” Predicting that that the world as we know it will change, she called upon all of us to “ensure that the changes are for the better—for the good of humanity.”
In the most moving passage of her speech, President Sirleaf extended her deepest condolences to all who are grieving for loved ones due to the pandemic, offering prayers for a speedy recovery to all who are infected.