The Elders

Press release

Mary Robinson appointed new Chair of The Elders

The former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights will become The Elders’ third Chair.

Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson (Credit: Joël Saget /AFP)

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.

Ban Ki-Moon, Mary Robinson and Graça Machel
Ban Ki-moon, Mary Robinson and Graça Machel, November 2018 (Credit: The Elders)

Mary Robinson said:

“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.”

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.”

Graça Machel, co-founder of The Elders with Nelson Mandela, said:

“When Madiba launched The Elders over a decade ago, I knew this would play a critically important part in my life. We have accomplished so much together, especially giving a voice to the voiceless, but there is so much more still to be done to achieve the peaceful, just world that Nelson Mandela believed we all can share.”


For media inquiries, please contact William French, Head of Communications at The Elders (+44 7795 693 903) or email: media@theElders.org

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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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