The Elders call for increased international support for Ukraine and stress that neutrality is not a moral option in the face of continued Russian aggression.

Upon their return from Kyiv, Elders Ban Ki-moon and Juan Manuel Santos urged the Ukrainian government to make its case for support in capitals all around the world. Public solidarity from governments, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America, is essential to keep the world’s attention on Ukraine’s struggle and bring about an eventual end to Russia’s war.

The Elders met President Volodymr Zelenskyy and other senior government figures in Kyiv on Tuesday, 16 August, after visiting the sites of atrocities committed by Russian forces.

Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said:

“Our visit to Bucha and Irpin left us in no doubt as to the appalling suffering Russia is inflicting on the Ukrainian people, and we condemn in the strongest terms the actions of Russian forces at these sites and elsewhere.”

Ban Ki-moon and Juan Manuel Santos visit Irpin in Ukraine, a town devastated in the battle for Kyiv.
Ban Ki-moon and Juan Manuel Santos visit Irpin in Ukraine, a town devastated in the battle for Kyiv. Photo: Paul Kuzmickas / The Elders

The Elders reiterate their belief that Russia’s war on Ukraine is a moral outrage. They call on the world to strongly resist the normalisation of the war’s horror and injustice and do everything possible to help end Russian aggression.

The Ukrainian government’s request for security guarantees that go beyond the failed assurances of the past deserves serious consideration.

The Elders also emphasise the central role of the UN itself, pointing to the initial success of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the possibility of UN engagement on nuclear safety concerns at the Zaporizhzhia power plant.

Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Colombia and Nobel Peace Laureate, said:

“It is vital that the 16 million Ukrainian people in need get access to humanitarian assistance, particularly those living in areas not controlled by the Government. The victims of this terrible aggression cannot be ignored. Ukraine also needs sustained financial support to aid reconstruction and recovery.

As Elders we are focused on ending and preventing wars, not winning them – our priority is to keep the flame of peace alive. I know from my own experience in Colombia that conflicts and their resolution are unpredictable, but the principle of a just and enduring peace cannot be forgotten. Ukrainians must know people all over the world stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their struggle to determine their own future.”

Ban Ki-moon added:

“The case for international solidarity with Ukraine needs to be made beyond NATO countries. As Elders from Latin America and Asia, Juan Manuel Santos and I visited Kyiv to emphasise that support for Ukraine comes from all over the world. Ukraine’s fight matters to every country that values its own sovereignty. Neutrality in the face of aggression cannot be an option.”

About The Elders

The Elders are independent leaders using their collective experience and influence for peace, justice and human rights worldwide. The group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007.

The Elders are Ban Ki-moon (Deputy Chair), Gro Harlem BrundtlandZeid Raad Al HusseinHina JilaniEllen Johnson SirleafRicardo LagosGraça Machel (Deputy Chair), Juan Manuel SantosMary Robinson (Chair) and Ernesto Zedillo.

Martti AhtisaariEla Bhatt, Lakhdar BrahimiFernando Henrique Cardoso, and Jimmy Carter are Elders Emeritus.

Desmond Tutu (1931-2021) and Kofi Annan (1938-2018) were founding members of The Elders and served as Chairs from 2007 to 2013 and 2013 to 2018 respectively.