Kofi Annan has wished supporters of The Elders all the best for the new year in an email newsletter.

“I hope that you and your loved ones have enjoyed the holiday season,” he wrote. "We ended 2013 with the celebration of the life of an extraordinary person. Joining millions of people across the world, The Elders marked the passing of our dear friend and founder, Nelson Mandela.

“Reflecting on his life and legacy at his memorial service in South Africa, my fellow Elders and I were reminded of his wisdom and uncommon humanity. Through his words and actions, he showed the world that even the most entrenched of injustices can be overcome; that bitterness can be replaced with compassion; and that jailers and their prisoners can one day be friends.

“It was with this spirit of hopefulness and determination that Madiba brought The Elders together in 2007 and charged us to ‘support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict and inspire hope where there is despair.’

“Six years on, his words remain the guiding principle of our group. We remain steadfast in our commitment to fulfilling his vision for our world – one where people live in peace and equality, free from poverty and fear.

“Our work in 2013 has taken us around the world, speaking out on a range of issues and listening to those – especially women and young people – who are too-often ignored by those in power. We emphasised the importance of building strong, inclusive societies during visits to Myanmar and Côte d’Ivoire and discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts with decision makers in Washington and London.

“Internally, this past year was one of considerable change for The Elders. As you will know, Archbishop Tutu stepped down after more than five years as our Chair – I was honoured to be chosen to succeed him. We also welcomed two new Elders, Hina Jilani and Ernesto Zedillo.

“As Elders, we have always drawn attention to the human costs of war. As I write, the conflict in Syria continues unabated. The harsh winter is bringing even greater suffering to the people of Syria, many of whom lack the basic necessities of shelter, food and medical care. So far, the international community has failed in its duty towards them.

“Our fellow Elder Lakhdar Brahimi has been working quietly but persistently to bring the parties together and end the conflict. We hope that the impasse can be overcome and that all those involved will commit themselves to a peaceful transition for Syria.

“Until then I will recall one of Madiba’s greatest lessons: his deep belief in our shared humanity. He embodied, more than anyone in our time, the idea that the greatest enemies could liberate themselves from hatred to build a better future.

“As millions of Syrians can tell you, we have never needed this more.”

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