It was an honour to join The Elders in September this year and to attend my first board meeting as part of the group in October. Our time spent together in London was full of informed discussions on the threats facing humanity, and considerations on the actions needed from leaders to tackle them.
At the top of our agenda was the ongoing violence, horror and devastation in Israel and Palestine. As Elders, we issued a statement collectively warning that Palestinian and Israeli lives must be valued equally in the global response to the crisis in the region. We condemn the horrendous terror attacks launched by Hamas on 7 October 2023, the killing of innocent civilians, the holding of hostages and the continued indiscriminate missile attacks on Israel.
We also condemn the Israeli Government’s unacceptable collective punishment of the population of Gaza through siege, the scale of the military assault and its death toll, and the forcible transfer of civilians within the territory, as well as the continuing land and home incursions and demolitions in the West Bank and settler violence against Palestinian communities.
As Elders, we say firmly: crimes must not be responded to with more crimes. We call for an immediate ceasefire, the restoration of essential water, food, medical and fuel supplies into Gaza, and the release of all hostages held by Hamas.
The cycles of violence and impunity must be broken, and the international community must be clear that all those accused of atrocity crimes on both sides should be held criminally accountable. Political dialogue and justice through law will be essential to reaching peaceful co-existence.
Building global peace and security cannot be separated from tackling the other great challenges facing humanity, including the climate crisis. As Mary Robinson highlighted in Kyiv last month at the ‘United for justice, united for nature’ conference, the environmental impact of Russia’s continued aggression on Ukraine is “an assault on our shared planet.” Russia’s war on Ukraine continues to be one of The Elders’ top areas of focus, even as attention to the conflict may wane as other crises come to the fore.
Despite the urgency of the threats the world faces, leaders are still not doing enough. In my capacity as a former Co-Chair of The Independent Panel and member of The Elders, I signed an open letter to WHO member states calling on them to negotiate a pandemic accord and amend the International Health Regulations to safeguard against future pandemic threats. As The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board’s latest report indicates, the world is still inadequately unprepared to face future pandemic threats. Leaders must step up now to create a safer future.
At our meeting, The Elders family mourned the loss of Elder Emeritus and former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari. Members recalled his legacy in the field of conflict resolution and remembered his vital words as we call for peace today: “All conflicts can be resolved. Wars and conflicts are not inevitable. They are caused by human beings. There are always interests that are furthered by war. Therefore, those who have power and influence can also stop them. Peace is a question of will.”
With thanks for your ongoing support,
Member of The Elders; Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and head of the UN Development Programme; Co-Chair of the WHO Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response; an advocate for multilateralism and nuclear disarmament.
- First elected to New Zealand Parliament, 1981
- First elected woman Prime Minister of New Zealand, 1999
- Served three consecutive terms in office as PM, 1999-2008
- First woman appointed to run UN Development Programme (UNDP), 2009-2017
- Appointed Co-Chair of Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, 2020
- Joins The Elders, 2023
Helen Clark was Prime Minister of New Zealand for three successive terms from 1999–2008