Ela Bhatt. Kofi Annan. Jimmy Carter. Desmond Tutu. These are four of the 10 amazing people that comprise a group known as “The Elders.” Founded in 2007 by Nelson Mandela (currently an honorary member), these influential individuals are using their shared experience, expertise, and acumen for the greater good. Mandela announced the group’s formation on his 89th birthday, a fitting testament of this remarkable man’s devotion to seeing justice and peace ushered into even the most impossible circumstances.
Their mission is clear: “The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, 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.”
The group is presently working on a number of initiatives throughout the world: resolving the divisions between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, mediating in the midst of the difficult situations in the Middle East, addressing the humanitarian crises in Sudan and Zimbabwe, eliminating nuclear weapons, upholding human rights, promoting equality for women and girls, and finally, pushing for the release of political prisoners in Burma/Myanmar; the latter being a mission that holds special meaning, given that one of their own honorary members, Aung San Suu Kyi, is among those prisoners. An empty chair, draped in Burmese silk, is symbolically present at every meeting of the Elders to remember Aung San Suu Kyi and the thousands of other Burmese prisoners.
Working both publicly and behind the scenes at all levels (local, national and international), The Elders seek insights and input from groups and individuals of all ages and backgrounds (one fine example: they enlisted the help of their grandchildren on climate change issues).
On May 29th, Nelson Mandela attended a meeting of The Elders; it was the first time he had been reunited with the group since its founding in 2007. It was a joyous reunion, as evidenced by the photos below (courtesy of www.theelders.org), and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chair of the group, spoke aptly of Mandela’s visit:
“It gives us such a strong sense of purpose and determination to sit with dear Madiba who brought us all together. We take his moral courage and his vision as our guide, to do what we can to address major causes of human suffering around the world.”
What I would give to be a fly on the wall at one of these meetings. I am impressed, inspired, and ignited to action, accomplishing whatever I can even in my small corner of the world.
For biographies of the Elders, blogs, photos, videos and more information about their work, visit www.theElders.org
Follow the Elders on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/theElders
Join their Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/theElders
Sign up and send comments and questions to www.theElders.org/connect
- Michelle Seitzer