the elders

Imagine a group of famous retired diplomats forming an alliance to solve the world’s most intractable problems. Meet The Elders: Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Yunus, Mary Robinson, and others have already convened and agreed to combine their wisdom, independent leadership and integrity, and together be a force for good.

The group was conceived in 1999 by Virgin billionaire Richard Branson and musician/activist Peter Gabriel as a new way to deal with the difficult conflicts facing the world. For their model they looked to traditional village elders, trusted by their people to resolve conflict within their communities. In 2001 they took their idea to Nelson Mandela — which even led to an agreement of Mandela and Kofi Annan to travel to Baghdad and meet with Saddam Hussein with the request for him to stand down (too late as it happened). The idea remained to form a small, dedicated group of leaders, working without any vested personal interest on the problems of humankind and, with the help of Graça Machel, they set about to make it happen.

Nelson Mandela announced the formation of this new group, The Elders, yesterday in a speech he delivered on the occasion of his 89th birthday.

“This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken,” Mandela commented. “Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair.”

Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders remarked, “Despite all of the ghastliness that is around, human beings are made for goodness. The ones who ought to be held in high regard are not the ones who are militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They are the ones who have a commitment to try and make the world a better place. We — The Elders — will endeavor to support those people and do our best for humanity.”

The Elders will use their unique collective skills to catalyze peaceful resolutions to long-standing conflicts, articulate new approaches to global issues that may cause immense human suffering, and share wisdom by helping to connect voices all over the world. They will be working together over the next several months to carefully consider which specific issues they will approach. The Elders’ criteria are not only the magnitude and importance of the challenge, but a deliberate view that their role could contribute significantly to solving the problem.

“I see The Elders as a small but independent group that may fill an existing void in the world community,” said Jimmy Carter. “Almost impervious to the consequences of outside criticism, the group will conduct unrestrained analyses of important and complex issues and share our ideas with the general public and with others who might take action to resolve problems.”

The Elders will invite new members who share the attributes of the original ten: trusted, respected worldly-wise individuals with a proven commitment and record of contributing to solving global problems. Elders will step down if they are elected to public office. Fill in a form on their Web site to receive updates or give your ideas on possible new Elders.

Founder Peter Gabriel said, “In traditional societies, the elders always had a role in conflict resolution, long-term thinking and applying wisdom wherever it was needed. We are moving to this global village and yet we don’t have our global elders. The Elders can be a group who have the trust of the world, who can speak freely, be fiercely independent, and respond fast and flexibly in conflict situations.”

Independently funded by a group including Branson and Gabriel, the Elders also attracted support from Ray Chambers; Michael Chambers; Bridgeway Foundation; Pam Omidyar; Humanity United; Amy Robbins; Shashi Ruia; Dick Tarlow; and The United Nations Foundation.

“This group of Elders will bring hope and wisdom back into the world. To play a role in bringing us together to stop unnecessary human suffering and to celebrate the wonderful world that we are so privileged to be part of,” said Founder Richard Branson.

(Thanks to Anna W. for submitting the report by the NY Times – at the Sydney Heraldalerting me to this wonderful good news)


  1. wow! this should be great, all the wise men and women are called elders just like in the movies in LOTR, even thou they should be retired by now yet still they chose to serve mankind. this is new good news. more power!

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