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Five years of working together for peace and human rights: The Elders in London

In July 2012, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson visited London where they took part in a public debate at the Barbican to commemorate the five years since Nelson Mandela founded The Elders. They also held meetings with the UK Foreign Secretary and parliamentarians to discuss key foreign policy issues.

Mary Robinson, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu met Foreign Secretary William Hague at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss some of the world’s most pressing situations, including those in Burma/Myanmar, Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories, Syria, Sudan and South Sudan, and Zimbabwe.

On their way to meet parliamentarians in the Palace of Westminster, Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans shows the Elders the plaque in Westminster Hall commemorating Nelson Mandela’s speech to both Houses of Parliament in 1996.

During their discussion with over 70 parliamentarians from the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on International Development, the Elders spoke about how to build a more equitable world for all. Desmond Tutu: “With the Occupy Movement, people are saying that inequity is unsustainable and unacceptable. You will have to legislate in a different way – how can we help to build societies that are compassionate and caring, where someone knows that they matter?”

Marking the five years since Nelson Mandela formed The Elders in 2007, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson held a lively conversation with Channel Four presenter Jon Snow in front of a 1,900-strong audience at Barbican Hall.

Over two hours, the Elders tackled a range of topics from the universality of human rights to the current crises in Syria, Egypt, Sudan and South Sudan. They took questions from members of the audience – watch the video of the event here.

Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel made a special guest appearance during the event. They told Jon Snow about their initial idea for The Elders and described the process through which Nelson Mandela translated their vision into reality.

Peter Gabriel said: “There was a dream that while trust in institutions was failing in all sorts of areas, there were individuals who through extraordinary lives had the trust and faith of a lot of the people in the world. And that perhaps there was some way of getting some sort of organisation which might put together some of the wisdom and experience, and be able to influence things.”

Richard Branson added: “I felt that a group of people who could deal with conflict resolution issues, and who have moral authority, would have a chance of resolving those issues.”

Given their diversity and breadth of experience, Jon Snow asked how the individual Elders have been able to work collaboratively and collegially as a group.

“The alchemy has been good,” Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders, replied. “But we’ve had to learn to fit – and to know that I am very strict about time!”

Mary Robinson added: “When we started we were more aware of what we had done, and what we hoped to do, as individuals. Then very quickly – and with a lot of help and guidance from our Chair – we began to see that as Elders together, we could do so much more.”

Reflecting on the mission and core values of The Elders, Jimmy Carter stated:

“One of the major elements of human life should be to do everything you can to promote peace and deter war… I don’t think in any of our discussions in the past five years have we ever departed from the basic principle that as the Elders – no matter what else happens, in every way we can – we are going to promote peace and we are going to promote human rights.”

In early July 2012, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson travelled to London to reflect on the five years since Nelson Mandela formed The Elders and to further their work to address global challenges.

The Elders participated in a public debate at Barbican Hall and held discussions with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and British parliamentarians.

Photos: Jeff Moore | The Elders

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The Elders are independent 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.

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