The Elders Warn of Global Order Collapse

The Elders Warn of Imminent Collapse of International Order Due to Political Leadership Failures

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Palestinian children are seen at a temporary shelter in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, Dec. 13, 2023. According to the United Nations (UN), approximately 1.9 million people in Gaza, or 85 percent of its population, have been internally displaced, some of whom have been displaced for multiple times. (Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)

The Elders, a distinguished group of independent global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, issued a stark warning today about the potential collapse of the international order due to cumulative failures in political leadership. In a powerful statement, they emphasized the urgent need for reinvigorated global cooperation and adherence to international law to prevent catastrophic outcomes.

“The world stands on the edge of a precipice,” the statement declared. “The foundations of international law and multilateral cooperation are at serious risk of collapse due to cumulative failures of political leadership. We face the most perilous moment since the Second World War.”

The Elders highlighted that institutions like the United Nations, designed to uphold stability and accountability through the rule of law, are under severe threat. A growing climate of impunity among states and leaders who disregard foundational principles has pushed global cooperation to a critical juncture.

The group specifically condemned the erosion of the principles of the UN Charter, which they say are being overshadowed by aggressive nationalism and great power rivalries. They stressed that such trends are counterproductive to the long-term interests of all nations, especially when facing existential threats that require collective action.

“International law must be applied universally. No country is above the law,” they stated, criticizing the double standards shown by powerful states that undermine the credibility of global institutions tasked with upholding the rule of law.

Particular emphasis was placed on Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which The Elders described as an act of aggression against a sovereign state and a fundamental attack on the UN Charter. They voiced strong support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its efforts to hold Russian leaders accountable.

The Elders also defended the ICC and the International Court of Justice in their roles in the Israel-Hamas conflict, opposing any efforts to delegitimize their work or threaten their officials with punitive measures.

“The rule of law must be applied consistently. Double standards allow autocrats to frame the universal values of human rights and international law enshrined in the UN Charter as Western constructs. They are not. They serve the interests of every country,” the statement read.

Highlighting the broader implications of political neglect, The Elders pointed to numerous conflicts affecting approximately 2 billion people in countries such as Myanmar, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Haiti. They also criticized the recent failure to agree on a new pandemics treaty, stressing the need for global preparedness against future pandemics.

With major climate and biodiversity negotiations on the horizon, The Elders urged world leaders to ensure that international agreements are implemented faithfully. They called on leaders to be honest with their citizens about the risks posed by current geopolitical instability and to advocate for sustainable, long-term solutions.

“As we conclude our board meeting in Brazil, we look to the country’s leadership to seize the opportunities presented by November’s G20 Summit and the major climate conference (COP30) in 2025, to work with other countries on restoring the credibility of the multilateral system and the trust which underpins it.”

The Elders concluded by urging leaders to adopt a long-term vision to build a better world for both current and future generations, warning that time is running out to strengthen the institutions necessary for global collaboration.

About The Elders: The Elders are independent global leaders working for peace, justice, human rights, and a sustainable planet. The group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 to promote ethical leadership and advocate for solutions to global problems.

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