Accountability lies at the heart of The Elders’ mission to support a peaceful, just and sustainable world for all. Over the past month, we have undertaken a range of activities with accountability at their core, including the visit that Mary Robinson and I made to Israel and Palestine.
This was the first Elders’ delegation to the region since 2015, and my first visit back since stepping down as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I must say that I left my visit with a heavy heart.
The region is currently experiencing the highest level of violence since the end of the second intifada in 2005, with a series of tragic killings of Palestinians and Israelis taking place whilst we were there. There is a distinct lack of political vision and leadership in Israel, Palestine and among Israel’s allies, who continue to revert to a short-term approach. And the ‘one-state reality’ is now rapidly extinguishing the prospect of a two-state solution.
During our three-day visit to the region, Mary Robinson and I met the President of Israel, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority and a range of other Israeli and Palestinian political leaders and civil society organisations, foreign diplomats, and former members of the Israeli military and diplomatic service. We also heard from Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organisations about the ever-growing evidence that the situation risks drifting into apartheid.
If the Israeli Government’s current trajectory is not reversed, pressure on it to reverse policies that violate international law should be increased, with serious enforceable measures for inaction. The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security and their fears of rocket and terror attacks must be taken seriously, but their Government’s policies are exacerbating rather than de-escalating tensions.
The international community must also address double standards on violations of international law. The indictment of Russian President Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Ukraine stands in stark contrast to the lack of progress on the ICC’s investigation into alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. Indeed, there should be no systemic impunity for any violators of international law and human rights – wherever they are.
As Juan Manuel Santos reminded us during his speech at the UN Security Council last month, the international community must also better acknowledge and address the links between conflict and the existential threat of the climate crisis. Each cannot exist in isolation from the other: climate change exacerbates threats to human security, while conflict impacts the environment in numerous destructive ways. UNSC members must be held accountable for their action or inaction on this pressing matter.
He said, “Despite the desire by some members of the [Security] Council to treat climate change and security as separate issues, in the real world the consequences of climate change and conflict very clearly converge.” As he urged, bold leadership and multilateral cooperation will be essential in tackling these interwoven challenges.
The links between conflict and the environment were at the centre of Mary Robinson’s visit to Kyiv on 29 June as a member of a high-level panel to investigate the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine’s environment. Mary Robinson travelled with other panel members including the former Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström and climate activist Greta Thunberg for talks with President Zelenskyy, with a particular focus on the recent destruction of the Kakhovka dam and its devastating impact on Ukraine’s population, agriculture and environment.
The severity of these existential threats and the tragic impact of protracted violence in so many parts of the world should compel us never to give up on peace and justice. As Elders, we are resolved to do all we can to drive forwards ethical leadership and solidarity, because people living in conflict deserve better, as does the planet we all depend on.
With thanks for your ongoing support,