The first month of 2022 was a busy one for The Elders across all our initiatives, with the common thread being the urgent need for improved multilateral cooperation to tackle shared global challenges.
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 shows that even after two years, the pandemic is far from over. Whilst we do not know what further mutations and strains may develop, we can still predict that they will come in one form or another, and that without a rapid and equitable distribution of vaccines, the pandemic will continue to disrupt our lives.
Gro Brundtland and I both addressed the issue of vaccine inequity in our addresses to the Prince Mahidol Award Conference on global health. As I told the conference, it is a moral outrage and public health disaster that whilst the developed countries of the Global North are progressing with booster jabs for double-vaccinated citizens, only 7 people in every 100 in Africa are fully vaccinated.
This political failure to show solidarity and understand that delivering equitable solutions is also enlightened self-interest, applies not just to the debate on pandemic preparedness and response, but also to the equally urgent existential threat of the climate crisis.
The issue of intergenerational injustice and the need for a fresh, inclusive approach to climate activism was at the heart of “Generation Green”, an online event The Elders co-hosted with Project Syndicate on 26 January. This virtual gathering brought Elders into discussion with young climate activists, scientists and political leaders from the Global South.
I was honoured to speak alongside fellow Elders Mary Robinson and Zeid Raad Al Hussein and deeply impressed by the commitment and determination of all the participants to tackle the issues head-on. We need this energy if we are to achieve a successful, transparent and accountable COP27 summit at Sharm el-Sheikh in November.
The wider geopolitical context in which the debates on climate and COVID-19 take place remains extremely challenging. From Afghanistan to Ethiopia to Myanmar; the human cost of political and diplomatic failure continues to shame us all.
The Elders also share global concerns about the current tensions over Ukraine, and have called on the Russian government to move back military forces from the Ukrainian border in order to defuse tensions.
All UN member states, but particularly those who serve as Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, have a responsibility to abide by the principles of the UN Charter and to strengthen the institutions that underpin the rules-based international order.
As Elders will we do our utmost in 2022 to support all those working for fair and peaceful outcomes where human rights are universally respected. Your support in these efforts is deeply appreciated and together I am confident we can achieve the world we want.