Dear Friends, It is a great pleasure to write to you for the first time as a member of The Elders.
When I was invited to join this illustrious group in January, I said that “in an age when poor leadership, injustice and suffering is rife, The Elders’ vision of a world where people live in peace and are conscious of their common humanity is essential.”
I have had the privilege of joining my fellow Elders to advocate this message when we visited refugees from the vicious war in South Sudanat a camp in Ethiopia on the occasion of our May board meeting in that country.
All too often, the voices of the victims of conflict – those forcibly displaced from their homes, or victims of violence and human rights abuses – are overlooked or marginalised both by national and regional leaders, and the international community.
The same sadly applies to the people most at risk from perhaps the greatest existential threat facing our planet today: climate change.
We have all been shocked by the dreadful images of destructive fires in the Amazon rainforest in recent weeks.
This “lung of the world” is critical to sustaining life and biodiversity on Earth, and its rampant destruction, linked to logging and intensive farming, threatens to exacerbate the already dangerous effects of climate change and makes it even harder to keep global temperature rises below the critical level of 1.5 degrees.
No group is more threatened by the destruction of the Amazon rainforest than the indigenous people who have lived in and preserved its nature for generations. These proud communities, all too often marginalised and denied their fundamental rights, have a rich and sophisticated knowledge of their habitat. This makes them effective conservationists and guardians of biodiversity, and indispensable fighters against climate change, who deserve our protection and support.
The failure of Brazil’s leaders and the wider international community to respond adequately to this latest climate emergency is profoundly alarming. Although the recent declarationby G7 leaders was a small step in the right direction, the $20 million they pledged to help tackle the Amazon fires goes nowhere near enough towards tackling the problem.
An isolationist approach can never deliver credible or sustainable responses to the global challenges we face, from climate change to nuclear proliferation. Too often, mediocre leaders compound these problems by failing to act in the best interests of their people.
This is why we, as Elders, deplored the termination in early Augustof the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between Russia and the United States, which played a crucial role in ending Cold War tensions and removing the threat of a devastating nuclear war on the European continent.
It is also why we will be calling on world leaders to commit to bold, urgent actions at the UN Climate Summit in New York later this month.
The Amazon fires underscore why this is no time for complacency or obfuscation. The passion and determination of young people around the world who are striking for climate action and climate justice should both shame and inspire us all.
The Elders will continue to demand urgent action, and stand in solidarity with young people and civil society fighting for their rights and positive change. As ever, we remain deeply grateful for your support in sustaining our work.