.... Just as the Ukrainian people are enduring the harsh impact of this unwarranted military incursion, the rest of the world is feeling the harsh consequences
President George Weah has delivered a firm rebuke of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the war is having a harsh impact on Ukraine just as the rest of the world.
The Ukraine-Russia war, which has been raging for nearly 7 months now, dominated the speeches and other discussions of the 77th UN General Assembly in New York with Liberians joining the fray.
The ongoing General Assembly is the UN’s first full, in-person leader’s summit since the COVID-19 pandemic and comes as the war in Ukraine approaches its seventh month. That conflict has become the largest war in Europe since World War II, with thousands killed and millions forced to flee their homes.
Addressing the issue, Weah said the invasion of Ukraine is an unwarranted military incursion that has impacted the world. He was throwing indirect shade at Putin, while making known the Liberia’s position on the war.
“Just as the Ukrainian people are enduring the harsh impact of this unwarranted military incursion, the rest of the world is feeling the harsh consequences of economic downturn caused by disruptions in global supply chains, food insecurity, and rising prices of basic goods and services,” Weah said in a speech at the UNGA, which was highly attended by other world leaders.
“This year’s Assembly [is] taking place at a difficult time in the world, as countries are recovering from the scourge of COVID-19, and also facing other challenges such as the war in Ukraine and climate change, which is having devastating effects on our environment.”
Weah’s address came the same week Putin ordered reservists to report for duty to fight the war in Ukraine — something analysts argued significantly escalated war efforts and the threat of nuclear retaliation.
In the biggest escalation of the Ukraine war since Russia’s February 24 invasion, hours before world leaders gathered at the U.N. headquarters, Putin in Moscow announced the partial mobilization of his country’s military, calling up 300,000 reservists and vowing he would consider all options to protect what he considers Russian territory, raising concerns of a nuclear attack.
This actions by Putin were condemned by the US, France, Germany and other world leaders in their UNGA speeches.
And while the Liberian leader speech may not have dwelled much more on the war, it is however significant as its reiterates Liberia’s position on the conflict and reminders the UN of the need to redouble efforts in tackling other critical issues confronting the world and its peoples — with the world being a priority.
Weah noted that the theme of this year's Assembly, “A Watershed Moment: Transformative Solutions to Interlocking Challenges,” is appropriate and meaningful as it reminds world leaders about the current state of the world, while also providing the space for reflection on the multiple challenges that confront mankind today.
“We have the platform to generate the transformative solutions we seek,” President Weah further stressed. “The world is watching, our people are watching; and we must now seize the moment; confront the challenges and collectively endeavor to lift the poor from poverty and hunger, sickness and disease, and ensure progress, development, and prosperity for all.
“We must pursue efforts to make the United Nations more efficient, more effective, more inclusive, more accountable, and more suited for the purpose,” he said.
Meanwhile, Weah has told his colleagues at the UNGA that democracy in Liberia is growing, signaling that the country is becoming a palisade of peace and a haven for democracy after many years of civil upheaval.
“This is because we have taken actions in the last few years to build and strengthen democratic institutions, such as the press and the Liberian Judiciary,” he asserted. “We have put forward new legislation that empowers the media while eradicating those that have tended to suppress free speech.”
Weah announced to the world that there is no political prisoner in Liberia since the inception of his administration. What he did not disclose, however, is that his administration is heavily indebted to the media, causing economic strangulation of the press and suppressing its freedom to operate amid the rising cost of doing business in the country.
According to him, the country has constantly and consistently pleaded with other sub-regional countries to adhere to constitutional term limits, and for a return to democratic civilian rule in cases of military takeovers.
He described the forthcoming 2023 election as crucial to consolidating democracy, underscoring his Government's unwavering commitment to ensuring that the enabling environment continues to exist for the conduct of peaceful, free, fair, transparent, and inclusive elections.
This, he said, is in keeping with my commitment to ensuring that the democratic will of the Liberian people is respected at all times.
In the build-up to the 2023 elections, he said, it is incumbent upon all prospective candidates to avoid the incitement of violence, and any other behavior that could deprive the Liberian people of the peaceful space that they need to freely exercise their franchise, and freely express their political will in choosing their leaders.
“We must let the people decide, and then we must respect their decision. That is indeed the true essence of democracy,” he said.
On climate change, Weah said his government is taking action through the formulation of new policy frameworks and strategic interventions to address the impacts of climate change and protect the environment.
“My Government continues to take actions through the formulation of new policy frameworks and strategic interventions to address the impacts of climate change and protect the environment. Liberia commits to achieving a target of sixty-four (64%) percent reduction in carbon emission below business-as-usual by 2030.”
According to Weah, he anticipates that the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt (COP 27), will provide the opportunity to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).”
Liberian Youth Employment
Meanwhile, Weah used part of his 15-minute speech to inform the UNGA that women empowerment and the promotion of gender equality remain key priorities of his Government.
“Women do not only comprise almost half of our country’s population, but they also play important roles at all levels of our society and must be given equally deserved attention, support, and a place at the leadership and governance tables in our society,” he said.
“To this end, we have developed the legal framework, including the ratification of regional and international instruments to address gender inequalities which are being carried out as a result of socio-cultural perceptions, practices, and stereotypes that support male dominance and the subordination of women.”
Weah then described how the government, in collaboration with UN partners, is implementing the EU Spotlight Initiative to stop violence and harmful traditional practices against women and girls, as well as to promote their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“Furthermore, the Government of Liberia is currently implementing a US$50 million ECOWAS-funded project to enhance the capacity of female entrepreneurs,” he said.