The Elders

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The Elders is an international non-governmental organisation of public figures noted as elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates, who were brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007. They describe themselves as "independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights". The goal Mandela set for the Elders was to use their "almost 1,000 years of collective experience" to work on solutions for seemingly insurmountable problems such as climate change, HIV/AIDS, and poverty, as well as to "use their political independence to help resolve some of the world's most intractable conflicts".


  • This Elders mission to China included high-level discussions on multilateralism, climate change and development, nuclear rearmament and non-proliferation, and human rights, alongside a ‘town-hall’ meeting with students of the China Foreign Affairs University... Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders, said: China has shown a clear desire to fulfil its commitments under the Paris Agreement, and play a central role in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. At a time when international cooperation is faltering, this is welcome news.
    Ernesto Zedillo, Elder and former President of Mexico, said: These discussions clearly underlined how recent actions by some nuclear powers threaten to reverse the progress achieved on nuclear disarmament since the Cold War. We ask President Xi to use his influence to help limit any further deterioration of international agreements on the development and deployment of nuclear weapons. ...In response to questions from the Chair of The Elders, Mary Robinson, President Xi said he was open to dialogue on issues of human rights and welcomed the idea of continuing these discussions with The Elders in the future. Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders, said: China has made tremendous strides in freeing millions of people from the injustices of poverty. We hope that same determination to improve human rights can apply to all people throughout China. We look forward to continuing discussions on how to enhance international cooperation on global peace, security and prosperity.
  • The Elders today called on all nuclear powers to take urgent steps towards nuclear disarmament, in the form of a “minimisation” agenda, to counter a dangerous rise in geopolitical tensions and distrust between states. The Elders... urge nuclear-armed states, particularly the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, to commit to a “minimisation” agenda that offers a realistic long-term path to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
    Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders, said: Nuclear weapons pose an existential threat to the future of humanity, and tensions between key powers are dangerously high. The only way to tackle this threat is through tough, credible and sustained multilateral engagement. The shared goal must be to reduce stockpiles and prevent weapons being acquired or developed by any further states, which could have catastrophic humanitarian consequences for the whole world.
  • It is a huge honour to take up the role as Chair of The Elders at such a critical moment for peace, justice and human rights worldwide. Building on the powerful legacies of Archbishop Tutu and Kofi Annan, I am confident that our group’s voice can both be heard by leaders and amplify grassroots activists fighting for their rights.
  • The executives were given a dressing down by the former Irish premier Mary Robinson. She said: "We should all salute the courage the Holy Father has shown on climate change when too many secular leaders have spurned their responsibilities." Ms Robinson asked the oil bosses: "What could be more cynical than still seeking to exploit fossil fuel reserves when the scientific evidence is abundantly clear that we need to end all combustion of fossil fuels by 2050?" She said the energy transition would require a massive shift of capital to clean energy and warned: "If some industries fail to adjust to this new word, they will fail to exist."
  • The Elders announced today that their new Chair will be Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mary Robinson becomes The Elders’ third Chair since the group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, following Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2007-13) and Kofi Annan (2013-2018). Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General, and Graça Machel, former Education Minister of Mozambique and co-founder of The Elders, will serve as joint Deputy Chairs, succeeding Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, who has held the role since 2013.
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Emeritus Elder and former Chair, said: “I am delighted that Mary Robinson is the new Chair of The Elders. I have witnessed her commitment to rights and justice in Palestine, Côte d’Ivoire, India and so many other parts of the world. Mary always puts ordinary people at the heart of The Elders’ mission, and I know she will fight for their rights with the same vigour as our dearly missed brother Kofi.”
  • Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General and new Deputy Chair of The Elders, said: “It is a pleasure and a privilege to become Deputy Chair of The Elders alongside Graça Machel. I look forward to working with my fellow Elders under Mary Robinson’s leadership to defend human rights, address the challenge of climate change and promote equality.”

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The Elders' news releases/articles