The Elders are an independent group of global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights.
Our vision is of a world where people live in peace, conscious of their common humanity and their shared responsibilities for each other, for the planet and for future generations.
Working both publicly and through private diplomacy, our mission is to engage with global leaders and civil society at all levels to resolve conflict and address its root causes, to challenge injustice, and to promote ethical leadership and good governance.
Gro Harlem Brundtland
Zeid Raad Al Hussein
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Juan Manuel Santos
Fernando Henrique Cardoso
What makes an Elder?
Elders no longer hold public office; they are independent of any national government or other vested interest. They should have earned international trust, demonstrated integrity and built a reputation for inclusive, progressive leadership.
The Elders share a common commitment to peace and universal human rights, but they also bring with them a wealth of diverse expertise and experience:
- The peace makers, with decades of experience mediating and resolving conflicts around the world.
- The peace builders who have helped post-conflict societies to heal wounds and rebuild.
- The social revolutionaries who transformed their own countries - whether by reducing poverty, improving the status of women, or championing nonviolent struggle.
- The pioneering women who have governed their countries, led international institutions and spearheaded movements to empower women.
An Elder is also a changemaker - someone who can lead by example, creating positive social change and inspiring others to do the same.
How was the group formed?
The concept originates from a conversation between the entrepreneur Richard Branson and the musician Peter Gabriel. The idea they discussed was simple: many communities look to their elders for guidance, or to help resolve disputes. In an increasingly interdependent world - a ‘global village’ - could a small, dedicated group of individuals use their collective experience and influence to help tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the world today?
How do they work?
The Elders is an unusual organisation with a distinct way of working. The Elders work strategically, focusing on areas where they are uniquely placed to make a difference.
This can mean engaging in private advocacy, using their collective influence to open doors and gain access to decision-makers. At other times, The Elders work publicly to promote neglected issues and speak out against injustice. The group decides collectively where there is the greatest opportunity to make a real impact, whether this is:
- Opening doors to gain access to decision-makers at the highest levels
- Listening to everyone, no matter how unpalatable or unpopular, to promote dialogue
- Providing an independent voice that can speak out, challenge injustice and break taboos
- Bringing people together to catalyse action and forge alliances
- Amplifying and supporting the work of people affected by conflict or working for peace
- Creating space for campaigners and policy makers to broach difficult issues
- Connecting people with decision-makers, ensuring the needs of ordinary citizens are always represented
- Highlighting neglected issues to generate media coverage and political attention
The Elders are cautious not to claim all the credit for making a difference. Much of The Elders’ work is dedicated to supporting the efforts of other campaigners and advocates, giving them a platform to make their voices heard.