Walk Together – The Elders and the British Council

by Lucy Browett, Future News Worldwide 2017 alumna

While The Elders continue their work as global leaders in the promotion of peace, young changemakers from all over the world are assisting them in their objectives.

Hundreds, and more via Facebook Live, attended a collaboration between The Elders and the British Council on Monday. The event featured the members of Future Leaders Connect 2017, youth activists working towards the goals of The Elders in their respective countries and beyond. These 50 specially selected young leaders from 11 countries were given the unrivalled opportunity to converse with experienced global leaders about the issues affecting lives in their own countries. The event followed a march through Trafalgar Square as part of The Elders’ #WalkTogether campaign, promoting the continuation of their founder Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom.

Baroness Prashar praised the coming together of The Elders and The British Council, due to their shared values and interest in humanity, in what seemed to be a natural collaboration. The first of the panel discussions was a “conversation between generations”, and asked how unity and common ground can be found to promote peace and human rights. Despite the challenges The Elders and the delegates have faced, their persistence remained, the consensus being that conversation can help resolve conflict. Martti Ahtisaari, Elder and former president of Finland boldly stated that all conflicts can be resolved. His organisation, the Crisis Management Initiative, works to prevent and resolve violent conflicts through informal dialogue and mediation. His sentiment was echoed by Nigerian delegate Blessing Omakwu, who believed that peace starts with conversations.

The second panel discussion featured former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico. Continuing the theme of a conversation between generations, it was put to the panel to discuss what qualities a young leader needs to have in today’s world. Diego Mendiburu from Mexico referred to the constant availability of technology and free-flowing information, which presents new challenges to young leaders in the digital age. Both Ban and Zedillo discussed their own experiences with diplomatic approaches to climate change, including the Paris Agreement, which has come under recent attention due to withdrawal by the USA. These modern issues of climate change and technology will undoubtedly affect the Future Leaders Connect members throughout their careers and set challenges The Elders had been free from for much of their own careers.

As well as the panels, the evening consisted of videos promoting the campaigns of The Elders, speeches from the Future Leaders Connect delegates and even two UK poets, Anthony Anaxagorou and Karl Lokko. It is indisputable that the Future Leaders Connect program embodies the values of the #WalkTogether campaign, encouraging young activists to stand together in solidarity to achieve common goals. The global network the program has created will undoubtedly lead to global solutions.

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