Although I became an Elder last year, this is my first time writing to all of you, so to introduce myself: I am a lawyer and human rights defender. My background is in the women’s rights movement in Pakistan, where I still live and work.
As a human rights lawyer, I look at every issue through a human rights lens. This is particularly important for climate change, which cannot be understood as a purely scientific, environmental issue. Above all, climate change affects people – and the most vulnerable among us are affected most of all.
Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson and I discussed this very topic with young activists, students and entrepreneurs in Paris last month. These young people are rightly outraged by the injustice of climate change. They are frustrated with political leaders who, by failing to act, are condemning their generation and future generations to a world of conflict, hardship and inequity. My message to these and all young people is: never stop being outraged. Never allow yourselves to become apathetic and pessimistic.
In turn, we Elders were inspired by what we saw and heard during that debate. A room full of young people determined to put their energy into mobilising their fellow citizens, challenging leaders and corporations, changing their own lifestyles, and working together across borders to find solutions to climate change.
It was a privilege to be asked to join The Elders, a group with with no vested interests apart from our common humanity, who are unafraid to speak truth to power. And I have been glad to see that even with our combined experience and influence, we do not underestimate the importance of listening to our ‘Youngers’. I look forward to many more such productive and inspiring discussions.