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Spring 2022 Global Engagement Distinguished Speaker, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf former President of Liberia and Nobel Laureate
March 29, 2022 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and Nobel Laureate
President Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2011 for her achievements as a global leader for women’s empowerment. She is also the recipient of The Presidential Medal of Freedom—the United States’ highest civilian award—for her personal courage and unwavering commitment to expanding freedom and improving the lives of Africans. On stepping down from the presidency in a peaceful and democratic transfer of power in 2018, she became the first woman honored with the Mo Ibrahim Prize, considered the most prestigious award for African leaders.
President Sirleaf was elected President of the Republic of Liberia in 2005, two years after the nation’s bloody civil war ended. During her two terms as president, she focused on rebuilding the country, attracting over $16 billion in foreign direct investment. She has also attracted more than $5 million in private resources to rebuild schools, clinics and markets, and fund scholarships for capacity building. She successfully negotiated $4.6 billion in external debt forgiveness and the lifting of UN trade sanctions, which allowed Liberia to access international markets once again. She increased the national budget from $80 million in 2006 to over $672 million in 2012, with an annual GDP growth rate of more than 7%.
In January of 2018, President Sirleaf stepped down from the presidency of Liberia and into the annals of world history. Never before, in the previous 73 years of her country’s war-torn and tumultuous history, had there been a peaceful and democratic transfer of power. In recognition of her leadership of her country and on the world stage, and in addition to receiving the Mo Ibrahim Prize, she was invited to join The Elders, an organization founded by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. This group of former world leaders, including Ban Ki-moon, Mary Robinson, and Ernesto Zedillo, work together to advance peace, justice, and human rights. In 2019, President Sirleaf was also appointed as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Ambassador for the Health Workforce. In 2020, she became a member of The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation’s (DFC) inaugural Development Advisory Council, which advises DFC on ways to increase development impact, and was appointed to serve as co-chair of the WHO’s Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR).