It is four months since Israel launched its military assault on Gaza, following the Hamas terror attacks of 7 October. The death toll and devastation is shocking, and the risks of further escalation dangerously high. In the face of continued violence, the Elders remain steadfast in our calls for the urgent protection of civilians in Gaza, the release of all Israeli hostages, and immediate humanitarian access. A ceasefire must urgently be implemented to allow for these calls to be met.
Last month we commended the moral leadership shown by South Africa, the home of our founder Nelson Mandela, in its application to the International Court of Justice under the Genocide Convention to protect the Palestinian people in Gaza. Every state has an international legal obligation to prevent genocide. Israel must immediately comply with the provisional measures issued by the ICJ in its ruling of 26 January.
It is imperative that world leaders defend and uphold the importance of international law and multilateral cooperation. This is as relevant to armed conflict, as it is to the broader existential threats faced by humanity. It is something my fellow Elders and I will focus on later this month at the Munich Security Conference.
We will be meeting with political leaders, senior officials and civil society to support peace and justice around the world. This will include discussions on Israel and Palestine, and Russia’s war on Ukraine. We will also be urging leaders to step up action on the existential threats we collectively face: the climate crisis, pandemics, nuclear weapons and the emerging risks of artificial intelligence.
In the face of crisis, global leaders must display long-view leadership. This means prioritising cooperation, acting beyond short term interests and demonstrating the values that brought The Elders together over 15 years ago: truth, justice, human rights and a deep awareness of our common humanity.
Existential threats and conflict weigh heavily on our world. The Doomsday Clock remains at 90 seconds to midnight, a reflection of the precarious state of geopolitics. But as Elders, we retain our belief in the power of hope to guide positive change.
My dear friend and the former president of Chile, Ricardo Lagos, understands this more than most. From fighting the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, to his work with The Elders on climate change, Universal Health Coverage and the rights of refugees – he has displayed a steadfast commitment to human rights and justice for all.
Ricardo has announced that, from this month, he will step back from his work with The Elders and become an Elder Emeritus.
My fellow Elders and I will continue to be inspired by his example, and will hold true to his words:
“We need not face these challenges alone. Hope persists, as does kindness and our human capacity for action.”
With thanks for your ongoing support,
Gro Harlem Brundtland