The Elders
Desmond Tutu

My dear friends,

On behalf of the Elders, let me wish you all a peaceful and prosperous New Year. I must confess, I had imagined 2011 would be more tranquil for me after I announced my retirement. How wrong I was!

It has not only been an important year for the Elders – our work taking us to Cyprus, Côte d'Ivoire, the Korean Peninsula, Ethiopia, the US and Brazil – but on a global scale it has also been a remarkable year, when the collective will of ordinary people achieved quite extraordinary things.

From the Arab Awakening to the Occupy movement, all over the world we saw people join together to demand that to which every one of us is entitled: human rights, equality before the law, and participation in the decisions that affect our lives. And I know from reading your comments and messages that there are many of you who can rightly call yourselves 'change-makers' – whether it is by peacefully demonstrating on the streets, advocating for the vulnerable and marginalised in your community, or teaching your students about peace and human rights.

We think it is time to shine a light on some of this inspirational work being done every day. Many of you have written to us suggesting that we use our website to encourage discussion about the ways each of you can contribute to making the world a better place. Well, we have a new 'Global Village' page on which you can do just that! Whether by posting your own messages or reading about the work other change-makers are doing, I hope you visit it and find it a useful tool – and a reminder that none of us is alone in our struggle.

Indeed, last year we Elders were reminded that collective, collaborative action is absolutely essential to tackling changes on a global scale. Having identified child marriage as one of the greatest barriers to development worldwide, we set about bringing together a fantastic group of people from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe who are working to bring an end to this harmful practice. With more new members joining every month, I know that Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage will grow from strength to strength in 2012 – and I hope you will support their efforts too.

The desire at the core of all these movements for change – a desire for freedom, fairness, equality and opportunity – transcends any national or religious boundaries. If the events of the past year have taught us anything, it is surely that these are without question universal values to which we all aspire. And when we join together, rallying peacefully around a common cause, there are surely no limits to what we can achieve.

Much love and blessings,

Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu signature

2011: The Elders highlights

PHOTOS: The Elders in North and South Korea

PHOTOS: Healing divisions, finding common ground in Côte d'Ivoire


Forgiveness | Desmond Tutu blogs on the nature of forgiveness, reflecting on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


Why we are building an alliance to end child marriage | Graça Machel argues that by working together, activists can change harmful traditions.


The Arab Spring: universal values in action | Mary Robinson disputes the idea that freedom, justice and human rights are 'Western' values.


Peace by practice: Mandela Day 2011 | Ela Bhatt discusses the power of 'thinking local' in our efforts to build a better world.


DOCUMENTARY: Cyprus – Digging the Past in Search of the Future

VIDEO: Traditions can change – ending child marriage


VIDEO: Inside The Elders' meeting in Rio

NEW VIDEO: Introduction to The Elders


Addressing the food aid dilemma in North Korea: school meals | Guest blog from North Korea expert Katharina Zellweger.


Promoting non-violent alternatives | Filmmaker Julia Bacha blogs about a new film series telling the story of a non-violent campaign in Jerusalem.


Crossing borders with friendship | 17-year old Cypriot Michael Panayi blogs about the challenges of promoting coexistence in Cyprus.