Age doesn’t matter when it comes to the promotion of peace. Young children have evoked positive human rights changes around the world. Elders in many communities across the globe have for generations played the role of political advisors looking out for the welfare of future generations and being positive mentors of the young. Everyone, regardless of age, has a role to play.
In July of 2007, Nelson Mandela gathered together a group of independent elder statesmen, peace activists and human rights advocates to share their wisdom to help resolve disputes around the world. Calling themselves the Elders, this group is not bound by the interest of any single nation, government or institution. “They do not have careers to build, elections to win, constituencies to please”; they are instead working together to promote the shared interests of humanity.
Currently the group consists of former Finnish President (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Martti Ahtisaari, former Secretary-General (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Kofi Annan, the “gentle revolutionary” Ela Bhatt, UN peacekeeping reformer Lakhdar Brahimi, former Prime Minister of Norway Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Brazilian President and acclaimed sociology and political science academic Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former US President (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Jimmy Carter, renowned international advocate for women’s and children’s rights Graca Machel, former Irish President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Anglican Bishop and international peace advocate (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Desmond Tutu, renowned freedom fighter and advocate of nonviolence (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Aung San Suu Kyi and former South African President (and Nobel Peace Prize Winner) Nelson Mandela. Their collective experience and political access gives them great global clout and they are using this clout for positive change.
The Elders have been tackling seven major projects of peace since their inception. They staunchly uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights using their Every Human Has Rights campaign. They promote universal equality for women and girls; and they are helping to promote an environment conducive to peace to lessen the humanitarian crises in Cyprus , the Middle East, the Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma/Myanmar. The elders have also been outspoken on the issue of climate change.
Elder Desmond Tutu reinforces that we all have a role to play in promoting positive peace, no matter our age, when he shares this wisdom and guidance for the future, “Give young people a greater voice. They are the future and they are much wiser than we give them credit for. And laugh more.”
The Elders can also be found online on twitter.