The Elders

Gro Harlem Brundtland

Dear friends,

As Elders, sometimes our most important task is to listen. The act of listening is fundamental to peacebuilding, to ethical and inclusive leadership. Strong and stable societies are built on the understanding that everyone has the right to be listened to – and to be heard.

The Elders heard from many diverse groups in Myanmar last week, in our first visit there as a group. Here is a country experiencing a formidable and daunting transition: political reforms are going ahead at a rapid pace; the government is pushing ahead with its aim to sign ceasefires with a dozen ethnic armed groups before the end of the year; and in some areas, new-found freedoms of expression are being abused by extremists.

As we listened, what struck me is that the different actors are not listening to each other as much as they need to. For example, no one was more impressive than the women civil society leaders we met. I was deeply moved by their stories of suffering, and by their courage and commitment to fighting injustice and improving conditions in Myanmar. But I wonder whether they are being heard in government, when only six per cent of elected officials in the national parliament are women – in fact, there was not a single woman among the high-level officials we met.

As Myanmar goes through a profound transformation, its leaders must include everyone in shaping the future of their country – whatever their gender, religion or political background. Everyone in Myanmar should enjoy protection under the law, and share in their country’s natural resource wealth. Myanmar’s people must be encouraged to come together, to end the divisive rhetoric that is inflaming intercommunal tensions, and to find common ground.

None of this will be easy, but only this inclusive approach can bring sustained peace and prosperity to Myanmar. My fellow Elders and I stand ready to help in any way we can.

Best wishes,

Gro Harlem Brundtland

Gro Harlem Brundtland signature


The Oslo Accords, 20 years on


quote Photo montage

OPINION: Referendums could be key to peace deal | Jimmy Carter

LIVE BLOG: Marking the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords

Map of Jerusalem quote

MAPS & FACTS: 20 years after Oslo: facts on the ground

Q&A with Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin

Did you miss?


quote Lina Zedriga Waru Abuku

OPEN LETTER: Let us treat patients in Syria | Gro Harlem Brundtland

PHOTOS: Peace, power and patriarchy in Africa’s Great Lakes

Protesters in Egypt quote

GUEST BLOG: Egypt: waiting for a Superman! | Emad Karim

BLOG: Let the young lead | Kofi Annan