The climate crisis, future pandemics, nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence are four existential threats that need urgent action. Current leaders know many of the decisions that need to be made but often lack the business or political courage to take them.
A new approach is needed, one that is driven by courageous, ‘long-view’ leadership. This means leadership with the foresight to recognise the severity of these interconnected and culminating risks, the courage and urgency to address them collaboratively, and the vision to articulate the moral need for action.
The panel will explore some of the challenges and opportunities that leaders face in tackling existential threats, consider how leaders can be morally courageous and understand what role governments, business and philanthropists can play and discuss potential solutions.
This discussion forms part of The Elders wider advocacy efforts to engage, encourage and inspire leaders and decision makers to make meaningful and tangible commitments on the threats humanity is facing.
The Elders are grateful for the collaboration of Virgin Unite for this event.
About The Elders:
The Elders was founded in 2007 by Nelson Mandela and is a group of independent global leaders working together for peace, justice, human rights and a sustainable planet. Today, there are eleven Elders from eleven countries and the group includes former Presidents, Prime Ministers, a former United Nations Secretary General, a pioneering lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. The Elders work through private diplomacy, public advocacy and partnerships to seek urgent action, promote global solutions and encourage ethical leadership and inclusive government.
Mary Robinsonis a founding member and Chair of The Elders. She was the first woman President of Ireland (1990–1997) and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997–2002. Between 2013 and 2016, she served as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy in three roles; first for the Great Lakes region of Africa, then on Climate Change until the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015 and then as Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate. Mary Robinson is known for her work bridging the gap between the climate change and human rights communities and for championing a rights-based approach to seeking climate justice. She is passionate about the need to establish grassroots women’s leadership and participation as a cornerstone of gender-responsive climate policy and believes in an intergenerational, intersectional approach tackling the greatest challenges facing humanity.
Helen Clark is a member of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, who work together for peace, justice, human rights and a sustainable planet. She was the Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999 – 2008, and while in government led progress on a wide range of economic, social, environmental and cultural issues, including sustainability, climate change and nuclear disarmament. She was the first woman to lead the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), holding the post of Administrator from 2009 to 2017, and remains a champion of sustainable development and gender equality. She is a strong advocate for multilateral action on the climate crisis, pandemics and nuclear weapons. In 2020, she was appointed Co-chair of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR).
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has been a member of The Elders, since 2019. A champion of human rights, international justice and multilateralism, he was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2014-2018. Before that, he played a central role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, chairing the complex negotiations surrounding the elements of individual offences amounting to genocide; crimes against humanity; and war crimes. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN between 2000-2007 and from 2010-2014, and Ambassador of Jordan to the United States from 2007-2010. He is an ardent proponent of climate justice for developing economies, recognising they face the gravest and most immediate threats of the climate crisis. Since joining The Elders, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has continued to be an outspoken advocate for human rights in all its shapes and forms. He was appointed President and CEO of the International Peace Institute (IPI) in 2021.
Dr Olamide Samuel is a Track II diplomat and Policy Fellow at the European Leadership Network. Olamide spent several years as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Nuclear Politics at the University of Leicester, and as a Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS University of London. Since 2023, Olamide has served as Special Envoy of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), and has worked closely with various states, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and the Managing the Atom Project at Harvard University, to advance nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. In an extensive career Olamide has advised a wide range of organisations on nuclear security issues, including the Vatican Covid-19 Security Task Force, and sits on the advisory boards of a number of non-profit organisations.
Jean Oelwang is a Collaborations Architect and the founding CEO of Virgin Unite. Over the last 19 years, she has worked with partners to lead the incubation and start-up of several global initiatives, including: The Elders, The B Team, The Carbon War Room (now merged with RMI), The Africa Donor Collective, Ocean Unite (now ORRAA), The Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator, 100% Human at Work, and several others. Jean spent seventeen years helping lead mobile phone companies in South Africa, Colombia, Bulgaria, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and the US. She was the joint CEO of Virgin Mobile in Australia prior to starting Virgin Unite.
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