The Elders begin two-day visit to Egypt

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Tuesday, 23 October, 2012
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Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson offer encouragement and support for an inclusive democratic transition. In the second part of their trip to the Middle East, The Elders are in Egypt for two days to meet President Morsi, senior officials, religious leaders and members of civil society. Arriving in Cairo, they praised the Egyptians for their success in using non-violent protest to bring about sweeping political changes, and expressed their support for the country’s democratic transition.

A delegation of The Elders arrived in Egypt today for two days of meetings and events from 23-25 October: former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, former President of the United States Jimmy Carter and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson.

The three Elders look forward to meeting the President of the Republic, Mohamed Morsi, religious leaders, senior officials and diplomats, human rights and women’s organisations, members of civil society and young people.

Arriving in Egypt, the Elders emphasised their appreciation for the non-violent way in which the Egyptian people brought about the great changes that have swept the country since January 2011 and offered their support and encouragement for an inclusive, democratic transition.

Gro Brundtland


Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, said:

“What Egypt has achieved in the past 20 months is a credit to the people of this country and an inspiration to millions around the world. We could not take our eyes off our televisions last year when Egyptians of all backgrounds took to the streets together to peacefully demand change. Our hearts rose even further when their demands for an end to dictatorship were met.

“During our visit, we look forward to hearing from many sections of Egyptian society about their expectations for the future – including on the forthcoming draft of the constitution. We are especially interested to ensure that we meet groups that often find it hard to make their voices heard, such as young people, women and minorities.”

The drafting of Egypt’s new constitution is a critical moment to secure the political gains of the revolution and chart the way ahead. The Elders hope that wide national participation and public debate will greet the constitution's first draft, due to be issued soon, ahead of a referendum.

Jimmy Carter


Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States, said:

“We understand the frustrations of those who may feel that change is coming too slowly. But change takes time. Egypt now has a democratically elected President and the military’s role has changed in a way that would have been difficult to imagine only a year ago. This is a credit to the persistence of the people and the statesmanship of President Morsi.

“Egypt is in the midst of a lively debate over its future constitution. Non-violent protests that take place almost daily are a further expression of the fundamental freedoms to which we all aspire. Change on this scale never happens overnight but the momentum of the past 20 months is a great source of hope and encouragement to us all.”

Listening to the aspirations of today's youth is a particularly important focus for the Elders’ visit to Egypt, where half of the 85 million-strong population is under the age of 25. The Elders will hold a discussion with a panel of young people from across the country about the future of Egypt, and their role within it.

Mary Robinson


Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said:

“Last year, Cairo's youth found strength in numbers and diversity. They said to one another, ‘if you go in the street, I’ll come with you’ – and soon they had filled Tahrir Square. It is also true that more than half of those aged 15-24 in Egypt are unemployed. Meeting their aspirations and finding opportunities for these young men and women will be one of the biggest challenges facing the country’s leaders.

“One of the missions Nelson Mandela gave us, as Elders, was to meet and listen to young people. As Elders, we have also learned the value of making way for younger talent. This is a message that we hope will resonate here, and help to emphasise that Egypt’s greatest asset is its people.”

The Elders' work on the Arab Awakening

Since the beginning of the wave of popular uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa almost two years ago, The Elders have stood with all those across the region who have taken their destiny into their own hands to demand dignity, freedom and human rights. The Elders support these legitimate demands and join the call for an end to authoritarian rule, oppression and corruption.

The Arab Awakening ignited an interest in good governance across all sectors of society, which should be embraced and encouraged. The Elders believe that all members of society – including young people, women and minorities – must have the opportunity to participate fully in building the institutions of government and that new constitutions enshrine the rights and freedoms we all share.

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