The coming of a new year affords the opportunity for reflection on the twelve months past, and a commitment to ambitions and aspirations for the year ahead. This is particularly true for The Elders as we embark on a new strategy with a focus on existential threats: the climate crisis, nuclear weapons, pandemics, as well as the scourge of conflict.
Our world has suffered greatly from these threats throughout 2022, from Russia’s savage war on Ukraine to the continuing toll exacted by COVID-19, the droughts and ferocious fires exacerbated by the climate crisis and the breakdown in diplomacy around nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
At times it could be understandable to feel overwhelmed by despair, recalling lines of poetry penned by the great Irish poet WB Yeats a century ago amid similar shocks and violent convulsions:
“We are closed in, and the key turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house is burned,
Yet no clear fact to be discerned.”
But as Elders, we remain guided at all times by the mandate bequeathed 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.
We have seen so much courage in 2022: in the actions of the brave men and women of Ukraine defending their country, from President Zelenskyy and across all sections of society; to the climate activists I met in Uganda and then at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, determined to deliver a better future for themselves and future generations; and in the inspirational women of Iran, standing up for their universal rights in the face of cruel oppression.
These signs of courage also give me hope for the future. I am inspired by the resilience of ordinary citizens fighting injustice, and by the fact that nations can come together to address shared challenges such as the recent agreements on Loss and Damage financing at COP27, and then the subsequent agreement to protect biodiversity at the COP15 summit in Montreal in December 2022.
As we move into 2023, what is now needed is to sustain pressure on political leaders to deliver on their promises. Our role as Elders is to hear, respond to and amplify these courageous voices and encourage governments to act in the collective needs of all humanity, not the narrow priorities of sectarian or nationalist self-interest.
The urgency of the interconnected crises we face requires a crisis mind-set from our leaders – one that puts our shared humanity centre-stage and leaves no one behind, and recognises the rights of future generations.
As Elders, we may not have all the answers, but we strive for a world where current and future generations see hope rather than despair; where common purpose trumps isolationism; and where impunity can no longer go unchallenged.
Our work never exists in isolation and we always remain deeply grateful to our supporters for their own efforts in helping us reach our shared goals. I know we will stand together in 2023, and thank you for your crucial solidarity.
With thanks for your ongoing support,