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With hope and action, we can forge a fairer future

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Juan Manuel Santos reflects on the state of hope today, and the enduring, transformative legacies of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

Adapted from The Elders' monthly newsletter. Sign up for regular email updates from The Elders.


Dear friends,

When Nelson Mandela brought The Elders together 15 years ago, he spoke of his vision for a better, fairer world. While much has changed since then, persistent global challenges remain. To tackle them, we need hope.

Last month, we reflected on Mandela’s legacy and the lessons our dearly missed friend Desmond Tutu taught us with a new State of Hope Talk. Released on Mandela Day and the 15th anniversary of The Elders’ founding, 18 July 2022, the talk features Mary Robinson reflecting on the importance of bold hope and the light Mandela and Tutu brought to the world.

I had the privilege of watching Mary Robinson deliver this talk in Cape Town at The Elders’ board meeting in May, as we joined friends and family in celebrating Tutu’s life. She said, “Imagine the world we could create together if we fixed our gaze on the goodness and the light.” As Archbishop Tutu reminded us throughout his life, we must seek out the goodness in the world and remember our common humanity: we need each other and we belong to each other.

Desmond Tutu’s example of transformative leadership is more important than ever when so many serving heads of state and government have shown themselves unequal to the challenge of defending peace and human rights in the modern world. Everyone should heed his powerful call to stand up for what is right: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Mary Robinson’s talk is the latest in our series of State of Hope Talks and Gatherings, launched last year to consider some of the biggest issues of our time: from injustice to conflict, human rights and the climate crisis. My 2021 talk explored the mindset required to champion peace and the lessons that can still be learned from Mandela’s victory over apartheid in South Africa.

Today, hope is needed more than ever. The climate crisis is causing unprecedented temperature rises and an increase in the frequency and severity of weather-related disasters across the world. Conflict rages on, from Ukraine to Ethiopia. Nuclear weapons continue to present a pressing existential threat. The world is still suffering from the effects of COVID-19 and needs to prepare better for the future pandemics we know will come. Action from global leaders, and from each of us as global citizens in holding them to account, has never been more urgent.

As Elders, we will continue to work towards a better world as we uphold Mandela’s mandate, but also his legacy, wisdom and light.

With thanks for your ongoing support,

Juan Manuel Santos


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