The Elders and Future of Life Institute release open letter calling for long-view leadership on existential threats. 

On 15 February 2024, The Elders and the Future of Life Institutereleased an open letter calling on world leaders to show long-view leadership on existential threats.
Sign and share the open letter here.

This letter was published in English but is also available in Spanish (Español), French (Français), German (Deutsch), Portuguese (Português), Arabic (العربية) and Chinese (中文).

The open letter

Our world is in grave danger. We face a set of threats that put all humanity at risk. Our leaders are not responding with the wisdom and urgency required.

The impact of these threats is already being seen: a rapidly changing climate, a pandemic that killed millions and cost trillions, wars in which the use of nuclear weapons has been openly raised.

There could be worse to come. Some of these threats jeopardise the very existence of life on earth. We do not yet know how significant the emerging risks associated with Artificial Intelligence will be.

We are at a precipice.

The signatories of this letter call on world leaders to work together to address these existential threats more decisively. We welcome people of all communities, generations, and political views to join us in asking for courageous decision-making – for the sake of our common future.

The knowledge and resources to address these challenges exist. But too many of our leaders lack the political will or capability to take decisive action. They seek short-term fixes over long-term solutions.

In a year when half the world’s adult population face elections, we urge all those seeking office to take a bold new approach. We need long-view leadership from decision-makers who understand the urgency of the existential threats we face, and believe in our ability to overcome them.

Long-view leadership means showing the determination to resolve intractable problems not just manage them, the wisdom to make decisions based on scientific evidence and reason, and the humility to listen to all those affected. Long-view leaders must have the moral strength to address both current concerns and long-term risks, often at the expense of vested interests.

Such values should be common to all political leaders. But they are woefully missing in so many. We need leaders, women and men, who consistently demonstrate the courage to:

1. Think beyond short-term political cycles and deliver solutions for both current and future generations.
2. Recognise that enduring answers require compromise and collaboration for the good of the whole world.
3. Show compassion for all people, designing sustainable policies which respect that everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights.
4. Uphold the international rule of law and accept that durable agreements require transparency and accountability.
5. Commit to a vision of hope in humanity’s shared future, not play to its divided past.

These principles of long-view leadership can inform urgent changes in policy. Governments can get to work now to agree how to finance the transition to a safe and healthy future powered by clean energy, relaunch arms control talks to reduce the risk of nuclear war, save millions of lives by concluding an equitable pandemic treaty, and start to build the global governance needed to make AI a force for good, not a runaway risk.

As leaders prepare to gather in New York in September for the UN Summit of the Future, it is time to change direction. The biggest risks facing us cannot be tackled by any country acting alone. Yet when nations work together, these challenges can all be addressed, for the good of us all.

Despite the seriousness of these existential threats, hope remains. Our best future can still lie ahead of us. We call on leaders to take the long view, and show the courage to lead us to that better future.

Signatories include:


Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former President of Ireland

Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary General, Republic of Korea

Graça Machel, Deputy Chair and co-founder of The Elders, Founder, Graça Machel Trust, Mozambique

Elbegdorj Tsakhia, former President and Prime Minister of Mongolia

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, Nobel Peace Laureate

Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico

Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway

Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand

Hina Jilani, Human rights advocate, Pakistan

Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Colombia, Nobel Peace Laureate

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordan

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Elder Emeritus and former President of Brazil

Lakhdar Brahimi, Elder Emeritus and former Foreign Minister of Algeria and UN diplomat


Max Tegmark, President, Future of Life Institute, Sweden

Annie Lennox, Activist and Founder, The Circle, United Kingdom

Charles Oppenheimer, Founder, Oppenheimer Project, US

Christiana Figueres, former Head of Climate Change negotiations, Costa Rica

Denis Mukwege, Gynaecologist and human rights activist, Nobel Peace Laureate, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Elizabeth Wathuti, Founder, Green Generation Initiative, Kenya

Geoffrey Hinton, Chief Scientific Advisor, Turing Prize winner, Vector Institute, United Kingdom

Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Co-Chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, Chad

Izabella Teixeira, former Minister of the Environment of Brazil, Instituto Arapyaú and CEBRI

Jaan Tallin, Co-Founder, Skype, Estonia

Joy Phumaphi, Co-Chair, Global Pandemic Preparedness Monitoring Board, Botswana

Julia Gillard, Chair, Board of Governors, Wellcome and former Prime Minister of Australia

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate, Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, Liberia

Luisa Neubauer, Climate activist, Germany

María Fernanda Espinosa, former President of the United Nations General Assembly and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ecuador

Mark Malloch-Brown, President of Open Society Foundations and former UN Deputy Secretary-General, United Kingdom

Martin Rees, Professor and Astronomer Royal, Cambridge University, United Kingdom

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Climate justice activist, Fridays for Future, Philippines

Mo Ibrahim, Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, United Kingdom

Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General emeritus IAEA and Nobel Peace Laureate, Egypt

Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank and Yunus Social Business, Nobel Peace Laureate, Bangladesh

Nane Annan, Board member, Kofi Annan Foundation, Sweden

Nicholas Berggruen, Founder and Chairman, Berggruen Institute, United States

Oscar Arias Sanchez, former President of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Laureate

Pascal Lamy, Vice-President of the Paris Peace Forum and former Director General of the World Trade Organization, France

Paul Polman, Business leader and Campaigner, Co-author “Net Positive”, Netherlands

Peter Gabriel, Musician and Founder, Real World, United Kingdom

Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group, United Kingdom

Shirin Ebadi, lawyer, writer, former judge, Nobel Peace Laureate, Iran

Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Chair, Econet Group, Zimbabwe

Vanessa Nakate, Climate activist, Uganda

Wolfgang Ischinger, President, Munich Security Conference Foundation, Germany

Yoshua Bengio, Professor, Turing Prize winner, Universite de Montreal, Canada

Yuval Noah Harari, Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Anthony Aguirre, Executive Director and Board Secretary, Future of Life Institute, US

Emilia Javorsky, Director, Futures Program, Future of Life Institute, US

View the full signatory list on the Future of Life website.