It is a pleasure to write to you for the first time as a member of The Elders. When I was asked to join such a distinguished group of global leaders in January of this year, I said:
‘I look forward to working with The Elders to inspire people everywhere, particularly women and girls, to reach for their true potential, break through barriers and pursue their dreams.’
Indeed, since joining I have witnessed a number of successful initiatives that have strengthened the group’s work on human rights, multilateral cooperation and peace. In June, Mary Robinson, Ban Ki-moon and I met UN Secretary-General António Guterres to discuss these pressing global concerns and the need to defend the multilateral system of which the UN is a key pillar.
This October I had the privilege of attending my first board meeting of The Elders, in London. Defending multilateralism was the main focus of our activities, together with urgent action on climate change, nuclear proliferation and economic and gender inequality.
Before the board meeting, Mary Robinson, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Lakhdar Brahimi attended the One Young World Summit, combining the energy of young changemakers with the insight of experienced leaders.
The Elders believe this intergenerational dialogue is crucial to developing holistic, inclusive solutions to global challenges. As the late Kofi Annan so often said,
“You are never too young to lead, and never too old to learn.”
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
– – –
Former President of Liberia and Africa’s first elected female head of state; Nobel Peace Laureate; a leading promoter of peace, justice and democratic rule; a voice for freedom and advocate for health for all.
· President of Liberia 2006-2018
· Nobel Peace Laureate 2011
· Restless campaigner for the end of military dictatorship and freedom for Liberia
· Played an active role in the Transitional Government of Liberia as the country recovered
from civil war
“I look forward to working with The Elders to inspire people everywhere, particularly women and girls, to reach for their true potential, break through barriers and pursue their dreams.”
Africa’s first elected female Head of State
Following over a decade of exile during Liberia’s civil war, Johnson Sirleaf returned to the country in 2003 and oversaw preparations for democratic elections. She was elected in 2005, vowing to end corruption, establish unity, and rebuild the country’s devastated infrastructure.
During the violence, Liberia had become one of the world’s poorest nations with crippling levels of unemployment. Johnson Sirleaf immediately sought debt amelioration and the lifting of trade sanctions from the international community. By late 2010, Liberia’s entire debt had been erased, and Johnson Sirleaf had secured millions of dollars of foreign investment in the country.
By executive order, Johnson Sirleaf established a right to free, universal primary education and secured the funding for a new national university. She made efforts toward eradicating corruption, including the creation of the Anti-Corruption Commission in 2008.
In 2017, Johnson Sirleaf retired after two full terms in office. This ensured the country’s first peaceful, democratic transition of power in 73 years in January 2018. A month later, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the highly prestigious Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership – a prize awarded only to democratically-elected African leaders who leave office at the end of their constitutionally mandated terms.