My dear friends,
On behalf of the Elders, let me wish you all a peaceful and prosperous New Year. I must confess, I had imagined 2011 would be more tranquil for me after I announced my retirement. How wrong I was!
It has not only been an important year for the Elders – our work taking us to Cyprus, Côte d'Ivoire, the Korean Peninsula, Ethiopia, the US and Brazil – but on a global scale it has also been a remarkable year, when the collective will of ordinary people achieved quite extraordinary things.
From the Arab Awakening to the Occupy movement, all over the world we saw people join together to demand that to which every one of us is entitled: human rights, equality before the law, and participation in the decisions that affect our lives. And I know from reading your comments and messages that there are many of you who can rightly call yourselves 'change-makers' – whether it is by peacefully demonstrating on the streets, advocating for the vulnerable and marginalised in your community, or teaching your students about peace and human rights.
We think it is time to shine a light on some of this inspirational work being done every day. Many of you have written to us suggesting that we use our website to encourage discussion about the ways each of you can contribute to making the world a better place. Well, we have a new 'Global Village' page on which you can do just that! Whether by posting your own messages or reading about the work other change-makers are doing, I hope you visit it and find it a useful tool – and a reminder that none of us is alone in our struggle.
Indeed, last year we Elders were reminded that collective, collaborative action is absolutely essential to tackling changes on a global scale. Having identified child marriage as one of the greatest barriers to development worldwide, we set about bringing together a fantastic group of people from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe who are working to bring an end to this harmful practice. With more new members joining every month, I know that Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage will grow from strength to strength in 2012 – and I hope you will support their efforts too.
The desire at the core of all these movements for change – a desire for freedom, fairness, equality and opportunity – transcends any national or religious boundaries. If the events of the past year have taught us anything, it is surely that these are without question universal values to which we all aspire. And when we join together, rallying peacefully around a common cause, there are surely no limits to what we can achieve.
Much love and blessings,