The Elders

Mary RobinsonDear friends,

The Elders experienced two ‘firsts’ last month: the first-ever International Day of the Girl, and our first-ever Google+ Hangout! It was a great privilege to join this live online conversation with child marriage experts, including the inspiring Muhammad Shahzad Khan who has been protesting against early marriage in Pakistan since he was 12 years old.

There are now more than 200 member organisations in Girls Not Brides and they did a fantastic job putting child marriage firmly at the top of the agenda on the Day of the Girl; I hope that this marks a real milestone in our efforts to empower adolescent girls in development work worldwide.

The end of the two-state solution?

Later in October I travelled to the Middle East with my fellow Elders Gro Harlem Brundtland and Jimmy Carter. This was our third visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territory and, I must say, the most disheartening yet.

For the first time in almost twenty years, Israel’s leadership does not appear to be committed to the two-state solution. This contradicts Israel’s official position; but from what we saw on the ground – the ever-expanding Israeli settlements, the increasing restrictions on Palestinian cultural and economic life – the two-state vision seems to be slipping towards a one-state reality.

The vision of two states, a homeland for the Jewish people and freedom for the Palestinians in their own state, has been the foundation of Middle East peace efforts since the creation of the state of Israel. To abandon it would be disastrous for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Elders' debate with Egyptian youth video thumbnail Gro Harlem Brundtland at a hospital in the Middle East

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Egypt: after the revolution

In Cairo, we three Elders caught up with the wave of change taking place in Egypt, including a lively discussion with Egyptian youth. Young people led Egypt’s revolution, but now feel somewhat alienated from the political process – although they are wholeheartedly embracing the new space for debating and expressing their opinions publicly.

Like many others we spoke to during our visit, they wanted to draw our attention to some of the many issues they face: protecting individual rights in Egypt’s new constitution, the role of religion, patriarchal structures that hinder women’s progress, reform of the police and army, the youth unemployment crisis and huge economic problems.

Egypt’s democratic transition is an inspiration to millions of people around the world. The country’s greatest asset is its people – men and women, young and old, religious and secular. The Elders believe that it is vital now that they are all able to have their say and participate in shaping their country’s future. We urge the world to look favourably on the great changes taking place in Egypt, and do all that we can to support its inclusive and democratic transition.

Best wishes,

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson signature

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