Tuesday, December 10: In Soweto, South Africa, workers are readying the stadium where global leaders will say a last goodbye to Nelson Mandela. Among them will be the Elders, a group of 12 highly experienced independent statespeople – among them Jimmy Carter, Koffi Annan and Mandela’s widow Graça Machel – whom Mandela brought together in 2005 to work toward international peace and human rights.
Since, then, Elders have helped to defuse situations around the world and fought for equality for girls, climate justice and a number of other social and environmental issues decided on by the group. Mandela was an honorary member of the Elders from the time he founded the group until his death last week.
Peter Gabriel and Richard Branson, Elder Ideators
The idea for the Elders was dreamed up by two men who’ve reached “elder” status in their own lives: rock star and activist Peter Gabriel and Virgin Group billionaire Sir Richard Branson. Their thinking: What if a team of global leaders who are committed to peace and justice, are trusted in the world and are also truly independent – no elections to win, no conflicts of interest, no stake in doing the popular thing – were supported in the task of cajoling and nudging leaders around the globe, sitting in on peace talks and acting as the conscience of the world? The pair approached Mandela, who together with Machel and Annan assembled a group of 12 highly respected women and men from around the world. The rest is… oddly missing from our knowledge of recent history. The Elders have been working largely under the radar, making change.
The Elders’ Tribute to Nelson Mandela
Last week, the Elders made this stirring and sometimes tearful tribute video to “Madiba.”
In July 2012, British journalist Jon Snow talked to Peter Gabriel and Richard Branson and then sat down with a group of the Elders. They talked about their jobs, some of their successes and how they manage being a group of giant egos trying to fix the world. Just for a glimpse of Koffi Annan’s sly humor, it’s well worth a watch.
“Looking forward, I think there are extraordinary opportunities with the technology and communications revolution. You’re just starting to see in the Middle East the impact of digital phones, and you can imagine a world were anything bad that happens is mapped, with storytelling so you can zoom in and hear people’s voices, with big global campaigns built up, and then high-level interventions. And this is where the Elders can play a role. So I’m passionate about the possibilities of the technological revolution when allied to this.” —Peter Gabriel
RIP Nelson Mandela