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We cannot afford to turn inwards as our own countries begin to recover from the virus.

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Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

May was an eventful month for The Elders, with both a podcast launch and our first-ever virtual board meeting. Much of our discussion focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges it poses to global health, livelihoods and human rights.

Preventing the emergence and spread of infectious disease merits unprecedented international cooperation by governments and policymakers. In a pandemic, no-one is safe until everyone is safe. One area of particular concern has been the treatment of detained migrants on the US-Mexico border – an issue I wrote about for The Elders last month.

In the fight to tackle this pandemic, we do not have time for narrow and self-serving political leadership. Nor can we afford to turn inwards as our own countries begin to recover from the virus, whilst regions like Latin America become the new epicentre of the outbreak.

The international community must demonstrate bold and innovative thinking to improve global governance structures and address the threat of future pandemics. Countries must act with transparency, enable free and independent media to hold authorities accountable and share vital health information as widely as possible.

In a statement following The Elders board meeting, we reiterated our call to G20 leaders for immediate, coordinated action and financial commitments to address the public health and economic crises sparked by the pandemic, including $150 billion in support of African and other developing countries. Such support is vital to bolster health systems and social safety nets, and tackle unsustainable levels of debt.

New Elders podcast initiative

Original thinking is crucial in these times, and I’m delighted to have participated in the first special Elders episode of the new Finding Humanity podcast, alongside Mary Robinson.

Mary and I talked about the need for empathetic leadership and the role of human rights in the pandemic response. You can also hear Mary and Juan Manuel Santos discuss peace-building and climate justice in the time of coronavirus. Listen and pass it on here.

Supporting young climate activism

At a time when the voices of younger generations are sorely needed in discussions around a liveable planet, I am immensely proud of ourintergenerational guest blog series, written by young climate activists from all over the world.

They have shared fascinating personal stories of courage, hope, and endurance, each championed by different members of The Elders. The wisdom and determination displayed by each activist is an inspiration in these troubling times and I encourage you all to take a read.

Zeid Raad Al Hussein 

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