The Elders

Ricardo Lagos

“Our world faces many grave problems that require us to join hands and share our different experiences.”

Ricardo Lagos biography

Former President of Chile; tenacious fighter for democracy and human rights; implemented health reform; and reduced economic inequality while diversifying Chile’s external trade in the era of globalisation.
  • President of Chile 2000-2006
  • UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, 2007-2010
  • Commissioner for the WHO’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health
  • Commissioner for the Global Commission on Drug Policy
  • Professor-at-large on International Relations at Brown University, USA, 2008-15

"I hope that by adding my voice to those of my fellow Elders we can also ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable in our societies do not go overlooked.”

  • Work with The Elders

    Ricardo Lagos joined The Elders in June 2016.

    In July 2017 in Cape Town, the Elders launched their 10 year anniversary campaign: Walk Together - continue Mandela’s long walk to freedom. Ricardo Lagos joined the Elders to launch the campaign, addressing the crowd and recalling his experience as President of Chile, working to improve the economy and introduce healthcare reforms in a new democracy.

    Ricardo Lagos joined the Elders delegation to the Vatican in November 2017 to meet Pope Francis. The Elders expressed their appreciation and support for his work on global peace, refugees and migration, and climate change.

    In December 2017, Ricardo Lagos spoke at the Universal Health Coverage Forum's public event in Tokyo: Health For All: Rising for our right to Universal Health Coverage. Ricardo Lagos addressed world leaders, youth advocates, celebrity champions and civil society to reflect on Chile's experience and called for political leaders to make Universal Health Coverage their top priority.

  • President of Chile

    Ricardo Lagos was elected President of Chile in 2000, twelve years after helping to lead his country back to democracy after the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. His memorable intervention on live television in 1988, challenging General Pinochet’s attempt to extend his rule by nationwide plebiscite, was seen as a pivotal moment in Chile’s transition.

    He served as President for six years for the centre-left Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia coalition, championing reforms to the healthcare system, enacting free-trade agreements whilst reducing economic inequality.

  • Supporting democracy

    After leaving office, Ricardo Lagos established the Fundación Democracia y Desarrollo, a Santiago-based foundation, to promote democracy and development. He also served two years as President of the Club de Madrid, a group of global leaders working on governance and conflict issues, and remains a member of the organisation.

  • Background

    After a career in academia and diplomacy, the military coup of 1973 forced Ricardo Lagos into exile where he remained until the late 1970s. He then tenaciously led efforts to restore democracy to the country, which ultimately led to the resignation of General Pinochet and the restoration of civilian rule.

    He later served as Minister for Education, and Minister for Public Works in the mid-1990s under Presidents Patricio Aylwin and Eduardo Frei, before being elected President in 2000. He finished his Presidential term with historically-high approval ratings above 70 percent. 

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Ricardo Lagos

Former President of Chile; tenacious fighter for democracy and human rights; implemented health reform; and reduced economic inequality while diversifying Chile’s external trade in the era of globalisation.

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The Elders are independent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

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