The Elders

Ela BhattDear friends,

At a recent debate, somebody asked what the Elders mean when we say that we ‘speak truth to power’.

I believe it is one of the privileges, and also one of the great responsibilities, of being an Elder. When we meet with leaders and other powerful people, it is our job to try to persuade them to lead with their conscience and remind them of their duties to the people they serve – even if that message is not what they want to hear.

But as Elders, we cannot only speak to governments and leaders. Our message is also for civil society and for communities. Very often the best examples of positive social change come from grassroots, and not from the top at all.

Think of climate change, which is already disrupting the lives of people all over the world who are poor and struggle to make their concerns heard. In my experience, these are the people who can show us the way to combine economic growth and ecological harmony. How planting trees can be more profitable than cutting them down for fuel; how harvesting rainwater can be more productive than deep earth drilling.

Governments and leaders should invest in these communities, listen to them and encourage them to develop such solutions. And the Elders can help bring their solutions to leaders: this is another way we can speak truth to power.

This is my reflection, but we would like to hear from you, too. Share your ideas on our website: what does speaking truth to power mean to you?

Best wishes,

Ela Bhatt

Kofi Annan

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