Supporting Peace & Promoting the Shared Interest of Humanity: Who are The Elders?

The story of the Elders started in a conversation between the entrepreneur Richard Branson and the musician Peter Gabriel. The idea they discussed was a simple one. In an increasingly interdependent world – a global village – could a small, dedicated group of independent elders help to resolve global problems and ease human suffering?

For inspiration, they looked to traditional societies, where elders often help to share wisdom and resolve disputes within communities. They took their idea to Nelson Mandela, who agreed to support it. With the help of Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu, Mandela set about bringing the Elders together.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

Source: The Elders Website

Introduction to The Elders (click here if video does not appear)

The Elders

All information following is from The Elders Website. This site contains full biographies of all members.

  • Martti Ahtisaari – Elected President of the Republic of Finland in 1994. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2008.
  • Kofi Annan – The seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations (served from 1997 to 2006). Awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace jointly with the United Nations.
  • Ela Bhatt – Founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) – a trade union which now has more than 1,000,000 members. Founder and chair of Sa-Dhan (the All India Association of Micro Finance Institutions in India). Founder-chair of the Indian School of Micro-finance for Women.
  • Lakhdar Brahimi – Served as Foreign Minister for Algeria until 1993. Served as Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2004.
  • Gro Brundtland – Appointed Prime Minister of Norway in 1981 (she served more than 10 years). Became Director-General of the World Health Organisation in 1998. Appointed as Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Climate Change in 2007.
  • Fernando H Cardoso – President of Brazil from 1995 to 2002. Under Cardoso’s leadership, Brazil recorded a decline in infant mortality rates, a fall in the number of child laborers, the attainment of nearly universal primary education, a reduction in poverty levels, a drop in the number of people dying from AIDS and the resettlement of over 500,000 landless families.
  • Jimmy Carter – 39th President of the United States of America. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2002 for “his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”
  • Graça Machel – A renowned international advocate for women’s and children’s rights, and has been a social and political activist for decades. Has served on the boards of numerous international organisations, including the UN Foundation, the Forum of African Women Educationalists, and the African Leadership Forum.
  • Mary Robinson – The first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. Currently the President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative.
  • Desmond Tutu – Chairman of The Elders. Became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1979 and was soon well-known internationally for his commitment to non-violence and for his support for economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the struggle against apartheid in 1984.

Honorary Elders

  • Aung San Suu Kyi – An honorary Elder. As she is unable to take an active role in the group because of her ongoing detention in Burma/Myanmar, The Elders place an empty chair for her at their meetings. One of the world’s most renowned freedom fighters and advocates of nonviolence. Has won numerous international awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Nelson Mandela – Founder and Honorary Elder. Led the struggle to replace South Africa’s apartheid regime with a non-racial democracy. In 1964 he was jailed for life and spent 27 years in prison. Elected President of South Africa in 1994 and served a five year term.

Former Elders

  • Muhammad Yunus

Desmond Tutu speaking at the Global Philanthropy Forum 2008 (click here if video does not appear)

Latest Initiatives

All information following is from The Elders Website. This site contains a full breakdown and commentary on all initiatives.

  • Cyprus – “Cyprus has been a divided island for over three decades. The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities began direct talks to reunify the island in September 2008. Many consider these talks to be the best opportunity to reach a lasting settlement in years.”
  • Middle East – “The visit of the Elders to Israel and the Palestinian Territories comes at a time of renewed hope that an historic peace agreement can be reached. However there are also major challenges. The majority of Israelis and Palestinians agree on the need for a two-state solution and comprehensive Middle East peace, but their leaders are deeply divided and the harsh realities of daily life have seen people’s optimism fade.”
  • Equality for Women & Girls – “Husbands should join with their wives, brothers with their sisters and sons with their mothers. We know what needs to be done. There is widespread agreement on the steps which must be taken. We now have to show the courage and determination to root out discrimination and change our world for the better.”
  • Sudan – “The Elders continue to follow developments in Sudan closely. They act whenever they can to ensure that the views of the Sudanese people are heard by their government and the international community – to help build a culture of peace, tolerance and dignity for all.”
  • Zimbabwe – “The Elders are actively engaged in supporting initiatives to address the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe and efforts to build a stable, prosperous and secure future for its people.”
  • Burma/Myanmar – “The Elders are calling on the government of Burma to increase spending on the health, education and welfare of the people and to accept further humanitarian assistance to help alleviate their country’s poverty and suffering.”
  • Eliminating Nuclear Weapons – “The Elders strongly support current efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons worldwide. Humanity has faced the threat of nuclear war for decades, while nuclear proliferation and the threat of nuclear terrorism pose a growing security challenge. There are currently more than 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world that have the capacity to destroy life on Earth several times over.”
  • Every Human Has Rights – “The Elders-inspired Every Human Has Rights campaign reintroduced the Universal Declaration to millions of people around the world and united them in upholding the values that bind our human family.”

To learn More about this amazing group of individuals, visit their website at

I hope you enjoyed this information. :)

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