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EJS Center / News / Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urges for greater women’s representation in peacekeeping during the inaugural Kofi Annan Geneva Peace Address

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urges for greater women’s representation in peacekeeping during the inaugural Kofi Annan Geneva Peace Address

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf highlighted a “renewed sense of urgency” when it comes to seeing greater women’s representation in peacekeeping processes and the strengthening of democracy.  

Delivering the inaugural Kofi Annan Geneva Peace Address, a high-level lecture on peace organized by the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, the Kofi Annan Foundation, and the Graduate Institute, Geneva, Madam Sirleaf highlighted the crucial importance of equal representation at decision-making levels:

“The [United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals…will not be fully realized until women, the disadvantaged, [and] the marginalized have hurdles and restrictions removed from their paths to full participation in political processes and national decision making.”

This is why initiatives that bring women leaders together are so important, Madam Sirleaf said. Reflecting on the recent Amujae Leadership Forum, which convened women leaders from across the African continent, she continued: 

“Women everywhere are threatening the governing status quo—the status quo that for too long has held on to power at all costs… [the] Amujae [Initiative] seeks to enhance the capacity of women in public leadership, helping to increase their effectiveness in their current roles and…challenge systemic barriers to girls and women’s advancement.” 

Madam Sirleaf’s lecture, organized as part of Geneva Peace Week, marked the 20th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Kofi Annan, who served as Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997-2006. Madam Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her commitment to women’s rights and safety, and her advocacy for their full involvement in peacekeeping processes. 

Madam Sirleaf and Kofi Annan originally became acquainted while working at the United Nations, when Madam Sirleaf served as Director of the United Nations Development Programme’s Regional Bureau of Africa. Imagining how Kofi Annan would react to her efforts to build a center to uplift women in leadership, she said:

“If he was sitting in this audience tonight, he would politely clap, but remain in his seat and say, ‘Well done, Madam President.’ He would ask me, ‘Is that all? Is that enough?’ And Kofi would have every right to say that. Because he believed, always believed, that leaders have a duty to do more, to work harder, and inspire more success.”

You can watch the full lecture here.