Elders Call on Youth to Help Lead the Way at Rio+20

Imagine if legendary leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu used the power of blogging, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to convey their ideas, influence and experience. No, wait. Don’t imagine. Visit TheElders.org and experience it for yourself.

Founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 and joined by world leaders like Fernando Cardoso, former President of Brazil, Mary Robinson, first female President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Gro Brundtland, first female Prime Minister of Norway, Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Laureate, Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States and Nobel Peace Laureate, and many more – The Elders are an “independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights”.

Unlike many other groups working for the same causes globally, in their own established fashion, this group seems to be taking to the streets. The streets of the World Wide Web, that is.

They have reached out to bloggers across the world to help get as many people involved in the conversation as possible. Marija Bingulac, a blogger for EnvironmentalGovernance.org points out:

The ten member group is made up of independent leaders who do not hold public offices and do not have any official ties to governments or national agendas. The Elders have pre-established rapports with the international community due to their integrity and leadership. They work on bringing sustainable peace, and enhancing human rights. Elders+Youngers is a public forum and welcomes outside participation.

The Elders and Youngers

The Elders + The Youngers (with Desmond Tutu in the middle)

On the occasion of Rio+20, set to be the United Nation’s largest conference in history from June 20-22, 2012, The Elders have invited several “Youngers” on board to help support and lead their efforts.

In a discussion titled, “Is sustainable development a luxury we cannot afford?” on The Elders blog, Desmond Tutu poses an interesting question in regards to global sustainability solutions:

The great challenges we all face are very clear: poverty eating away at our social fabric; our dwindling ecosystems; the well-documented threat of climate change… And yet so many of our leaders tend to put these challenges right at the bottom of their agendas…

My question, really, is why is it that our leaders do not think more like you?

In this series of online discussions, The Elders seem unafraid to ask the real questions facing the world today, even 20 years after the concept of sustainable development was introduced to the mainstream. Gro Brudtland emphasizes in one discussion:

This year we should be celebrating the Rio Earth Summit’s twentieth anniversary – and yet seven billion people now co-exist on our fragile planet, many of whom are dangerously short of food, water and basic economic security.

On another post, Desmond Tutu says:

Many of you will remember the first Earth Summit in Rio precisely 20 years ago, when a new idea, ‘sustainable development’, echoed around the world…

Since that moment, however, too little has changed…

We want to make sure the voices of future generations – those that will inherit this planet – as well as all global citizens, are heard loud and clear.

In tone with that message, he is being quoted on many blogs as having told The Youngers: “You must succeed where we have failed.”

The young counterparts chosen by this group of leaders, from Nigeria, China, Sweden, and Brazil, don’t shy away from asking bold questions either.

One of The Youngers, Pedro Telles from Brazil, began a discussion on the site by posing the question, “People, profit and environment – can we balance them all?”:

It seems to me that we will only reach real economic prosperity when we have an economy that works to serve the people and preserve the environment, and not the other way around…

We need something new. And it seems that sustainable development is not only the goal, but also the way to get there.

Gro Brundtland responds to Pedro’s question, referencing her experiences as part of a UN Commission she headed in the late 1980s, and says:

I would like to pick up on one of your points in particular, where you ask where each sector is failing to deliver. That is precisely the right question because you already demand that we think about each and every sector of society. Such thinking is still too rare, and that of course is key to the balancing act you describe.

They are calling themselves The Elders and The Youngers, like a band of intergalactic superheroes sent to bring sustainable development to liberate the planet.

So the next time you feel like chatting on global issues with the likes of Nobel Peace Laureates and former presidents, drop them a line in one of their discussions. Or better yet, join The Youngers’ efforts to succeed where our elders have failed.

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