When Nelson Mandela founded The Elders in 2007, he told the group to listen to the marginalised – especially young people.
Ever since, we have sought to empower young people and promote intergenerational dialogue across different areas of The Elders’ work. We are eager to share our experiences with the younger generation, but we also recognise that we have much to learn from them, and must create the space for them to share their aspirations and ideas.
Our work with young people has involved collaborating with young climate activists, holding roundtable discussions on African leadership, debating Egypt’s revolution with young people in Cairo and featuring guest blogs from youth contributors on The Elders’ website.
Over the course of their work together, The Elders have met many young people who are passionate about peace, equality and protecting the environment. They have been inspired by these meetings and look to sustain and support their relationships where possible; for example the digital exchange between Mary Robinson and Marshall Islands young climate activist Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner for International Women’s Day in March 2016.
Promoting youth leadership
Today’s youth generation is the biggest in history. We urge young people not to underestimate their power and influence if they work together and organise. We encourage them to take up leadership roles, and campaign on the issues they care about. As Mary Robinson said to students, campaigners and entrepreneurs in Paris in 2014: “Make your voices heard. If necessary, interrupt!” In October 2017, the Elders joined young people, including many from the British Council Future Leader Connect programme on a #WalkTogether for peace through central London.
Where possible, we also try to bring the concerns of young people to leaders – and to encourage and challenge the leaders of tomorrow. As Elders, we also remind young people of the value of ethical leadership and their responsibility to future generations.