Following The Elders' board meeting, Martti Ahtisaari reflects on the importance of maintaining multilateralism at the heart of international relations in order to overcome today's greatest challenges, particularly climate change.
The Elders at the May Board Meeting in Helsinki (Credit: Riku Isohella/The Elders )
A few weeks ago I had the honour of hosting my fellow Elders for our May board meeting in Helsinki. It was wonderful to welcome the group to my home country in the year that we celebrate 100 years of Finnish independence (and my own 80th birthday).
As always when we meet as Elders, we are reminded of the stirring mandate bestowed upon us by our founder, Nelson Mandela: to “support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict and inspire hope where there is despair”.
His message is universal. And although there was a distinctly Finnish flavour to our meeting, I believe that the values that underpin my country a century after it won its freedom – democracy, tolerance and egalitarianism – also apply to everyone on our shared planet.
The physical as well as the political fate of the planet was a key topic at our meeting. As our Chair Kofi Annan has said, climate change is the great existential challenge of our age. If emissions, temperatures and sea levels continue to rise, large parts of Earth could become literally uninhabitable.
I believe this would be an unconscionable betrayal of future generations. I also believe that only concerted global action, based on the principles of fairness and equality, can tackle the challenge of climate change and produce solutions for an environmentally sustainable future.
Multilateralism has been at the heart of the international order since the end of the Second World War. It is central to the work and philosophy of the United Nations, and to The Elders. In this unique group, we bring our individual experiences and perspectives to the table, but in the knowledge that our collective voice and action can make a greater difference.
As Elders, we offer our support and determination to keep striving for a just, harmonious and bountiful world that we and future generations can all enjoy.