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Open letter calling on world leaders to show long-view leadership on existential threats

The Elders, Future of Life Institute and a diverse range of co-signatories call on decision-makers to urgently address the ongoing impact and escalating risks of the climate crisis, pandemics, nuclear weapons, and ungoverned AI.
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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).

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.

Future of Life Institute
The Elders

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