the eldersIn 2007, Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel discussed an idea: what if former leaders of the world used their previous experience and influence to establish a non-profit tackling pressing modern issues? The Elders, an independent organization led by global leaders who no longer hold public office and are independent of any government affiliation, was born.

Who Are The Elders?

The first and founding member of the organization was Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, who dedicated his life to ending apartheid. Like Mandela, peace makers, peace builders, social revolutionaries, and pioneering women comprise this group of influential individuals. The current Chair of the Elders is Mary Robinson, the first female Prime Minister of Ireland. Former Presidents of Mexico, Chile, and Liberia are also among the elite group. Currently, 11 individuals comprise the organization, while there are an additional five leaders considered “Elder Emeritus,” including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Focuses of The Elders

The Elders focus on six programming areas. Firstly, the organization works to support international cooperation in solving issues that threaten all global citizens. For example, The Elders believe that nuclear weapons are a threat to all humans on Earth and are working on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The organization believes that the only way to achieve this, and many other overarching goals, is through practical steps and global cooperation. The Elders also use their experience in peace making and building to aid in securing peaceful solutions to conflicts throughout the world. Specific priorities of the Elders include tension and conflict in the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East, and Zimbabwe.

Through global and country-level lobbying and activity, the Elders aim to build support for the importance of universal health coverage. Through keynote speeches and visits to countries in need of healthcare, the Elders are committed to achieving universal health coverage. The organization also believes that global complacency in climate change is one of the largest injustices in human history. To combat climate change, the organization is seeking to ease the transition to a low carbon economy and encourage creative solutions to keeping the planet sustainable.

In response to the number of migrants and refugees, The Elders works to keep struggles of these individuals at the forefront of the news and the minds of the public. Lastly, the group works with governments and countries to ensure that access to justice remains an important human right.

This esteemed group of individuals has massive impacts in unstable regions of the world, from Israel and Palestine to Sudan and South Sudan. Using its six programming focuses, the organization tackles a massive variety of issues, challenging injustice and praising and supporting strong governments and ethical leadership.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr