I write to you at the end of a very busy few weeks for The Elders.
In June I welcomed my fellow Elders Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundtland to Brazil, where together we called for bold action at Rio+20, the UN summit on sustainable development.
It was a valuable opportunity for us to make the most of our ‘Elder’ status and remind world leaders of their responsibility to make wise decisions today in the interests of future generations.
Empowering the younger generation
We were joined in Rio by the four ‘Youngers’ with whom we had spent several weeks debating the issues that affect us all – from balancing people, profit and environment, to whether these global summits are really effective at achieving change.
While we were disappointed with the outcome of the Rio+20 conference, Esther, Marvin, Sara and Pedro showed us exactly why we must empower the generation who will inherit this planet: they have a fresh perspective, creative ideas, long-term vision, and the energy to keep pushing for change.
The thousands of young people who travelled to Rio+20 were one of the conference’s clear positives. They are determined to make a difference, and are compelled by a real feeling of urgency – and this is exactly what is needed.
Celebrating five years of The Elders
We have also just celebrated five years since Nelson Mandela brought The Elders together for the first time in Johannesburg, marking the anniversary with a lively public debate at the Barbican Centre in London.
This milestone coincides with Mandela Day, a day when we honour our founder’s legacy by giving our time in the service of others. Mary Robinson, Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Tutu visited several charities in London that work with young people, hearing about the challenges they face, and what they are doing together to help themselves and others.
I know that many of you joined this global day of action, dedicating your time and energy to help others in the spirit of Mandela Day. I hope you will share your experiences with us and with other members of our ‘global village’ on our Facebook page.
South Sudan: the path to peace and prosperity
After the events in London, Archbishop Tutu led a delegation of Elders to South Sudan – the world’s newest country – which celebrated its first anniversary of independence on 9 July but faces many challenges, not least the tense relations with its neighbour, Sudan.
This was the second part of a two-phase visit to the region, following Jimmy Carter and Lakhdar Brahimi’s visit to Khartoum in May, aiming to encourage the leaders of both countries to return to the negotiating table.
Ultimately, it is only the leaders who can resolve their disagreements, and they have the responsibility to do so – the welfare of all of their people depends on it. As Elders, we will continue to support peace-building efforts in any way we can.
Fernando Henrique Cardoso