Press conference in Yangon on Thursday 18 December
This week, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Martti Ahtisaari, Lakhdar Brahimi and Hina Jilani begin a visit to Myanmar and Thailand, meeting with government, military and civil society. They aim to encourage progress towards an inclusive, democratic and just society.
In March 2014 Gro Harlem Brundtland and Martti Ahtisaari returned to Myanmar for the Elders’ second visit to the country. They also travelled to the Thailand-Myanmar border to meet communities exiled by more than 60 years of civil war.
During the first Elders delegation to Myanmar in September 2013, Jimmy Carter, Martti Ahtisaari and Gro Harlem Brundtland heard a range of perspectives on the country's political transition, from President Thein Sein to the leaders of the 1988 democracy movement.
In October 2012 Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson travelled to Israel and the West Bank to draw attention to the developments threatening the two-state solution. After meeting civil society, Israeli and Palestinian political leaders, and humanitarian and human rights experts, the Elders concluded their visit by warning that the situation is heading towards a one-state outcome – which would be catastrophic for both Israelis and Palestinians.
In October 2012 the Elders travelled to Cairo for the second part of their Middle East visit. They met President Morsi, religious leaders, young people and civil society representatives, expressing their support for Egypt’s democratic transition and encouraging all Egyptians to join the spirited debate about their country’s future.
“One of the most incredible sources of energy for me is when I am with young people – sorry oldies!” Desmond Tutu
In May 2012 four 'Youngers' – climate change activists from Nigeria, Brazil, Sweden and China – joined the Elders at their bi-annual meeting in Oslo to discuss the upcoming Rio+20 summit on sustainable development, the role of the UN, and how to mobilise civil society, especially young people, around urgent global issues.
In February 2012 four Elders travelled to Bihar, India, to meet a group of young people campaigning to stop child marriage. After listening to the teenage girls and boys, Desmond Tutu, Ela Bhatt, Gro Brundtland and Mary Robinson raised the issue with Bihar's Chief Minister, urging him to support the growing movement to end this harmful practice.
In June 2011 Elders Gro Brundtland, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu travelled to Ethiopia to visit communities affected by child marriage and convene a meeting of experts and activists working to end child marriage around the world.
In April 2011 Jimmy Carter, Martti Ahtisaari, Gro Brundtland and Mary Robinson travelled to North and South Korea. With tensions high between the two countries and negotiations at a standstill, they hoped to encourage all parties involved to resume dialogue.
“We Elders have all experienced remarkable transformations in our own lifetimes; we know that there is an alternative, that wrongs can be righted.”
Norway’s first female Prime Minister
“For girls and women, the great progress we have made over the last few decades is not enough. Until all of us share the same opportunities – to get an education, to work, to lead – we can never truly prosper.”
Sustainable development champion
“Economies are stalling. Ecosystems are under siege. Inequality – within and between countries – is soaring. These afflictions are clearly rooted in political short-sightedness, where narrow interests triumph over common interests, common responsibilities and common sense.”
Health as a human right
“There can be no real growth without healthy populations. No sustainable development without tackling disease and malnutrition. No international security without assisting crisis-ridden countries. And no hope for the spread of freedom, democracy and human dignity unless we treat health as a basic human right.”
Gro Harlem Brundtland biography
First woman Prime Minister of Norway and Deputy Chair of The Elders; a medical doctor who champions health as a human right; put sustainable development on the international agenda.
Deputy Chair of The Elders
Norway's first woman Prime Minister
Director-General of the World Health Organization 1998-2003
UN Special Envoy on Climate Change 2007-2010
"We are individuals who are speaking without any outside pressures. In that context we can create the potential for change."
Former President of Brazil; implemented major land reform programme, reduced poverty and significantly improved health and education; an acclaimed sociologist and global advocate for drug policy reform.
Former President of Chile; tenacious fighter for democracy and human rights; implemented health reform; and reduced economic inequality while diversifying Chile’s external trade in the era of globalisation.
The Elders' first day in the Middle East, proved to be moving, thought-provoking, frank and inspirational as they met a diverse group of Israeli citizens and heard a wide range of thoughts and perspectives
"Non-violence is the only way of cleansing society of the tiredness, brutalisation and despondency it has been forced into." Ela Bhatt
During their first visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory in August 2009, the Elders visit peaceful protestors in the West Bank village of Bil'in, a Palestinian family living on the pavement after being evicted from their Jerusalem home, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
On the second day of their visit to the Middle East in August 2009, The Elders meet Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. They also cross into the West Bank, where they meet women from the Qalandia refugee camp and listen to the concerns of young Palestinians.
Gro Brundtland and Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Cyprus at a critical time, just as the second phase of negotiations on reunification of the island began. The Elders met leading women from politics, business and civil society, encouraging them to press for a more active role for women in the peace process. They also met Cypriots working on reconciliation, who are trying to develop a shared understanding of the painful issues of the past.
“We all talk about climate change. I have a sense that people don't take it seriously.” Kofi Annan
Joined by fellow Elders Gro Harlem Brundtland, Mary Robinson and Ernesto Zedillo, Kofi Annan calls on world leaders to take action on climate change ahead of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit 2014.
The Elders are independent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.