Former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and former president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, discuss the role of global leadership and international cooperation in the context of COVID-19 and beyond.

As lockdowns begin to ease and borders and economies begin to reopen, the challenges of a COVID-affected world are becoming more apparent. Protectionist trends have been exacerbated and the pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in avenues to global cooperation and the capacity of international organizations to respond to crises.

The health crisis has dominated international efforts and discourse for the first half of 2020 but it is not the only problem requiring international attention: the climate crisis remains a pressing issue for the global community, attempts to prevent or resolve conflict continue to falter with Yemen now one of the worst humanitarian crises of modern times, protests across the world are forcing communities and governments to address entrenched and institutional racism and continued US-China tensions hamper international collaboration and cooperation.

Amid a volatile and uncertain geopolitical landscape, how can the international community prepare to deal with the political and socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic? What is the potential for co-ordinated global leadership and international co-operation in responding to international crises?

Could the pandemic reinvigorate world leaders, governments and international organizations to come together to create more resilient political and economic architectures? And, in the pursuit of a more equitable world, how can global efforts be appropriately distributed?

Chatham House Centenary:
Throughout our centenary year in 2020, Chatham House celebrates a century of influence, independent analysis and trusted dialogue with a number of exciting initiatives. This event is part of a series of events and research outputs linked to the main goals for our second century, which are to promote sustainable and equitable growth; peaceful and thriving societies; and inclusive and accountable governance.


Mary Robinson, Chair, The Elders; President of Ireland (1990-97); United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002)
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia (2006-18); Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2011)
Chair: Dr Robin Niblett CMG, Director and Chief Executive, Chatham House