Kofi Annan was a member of The Elders since its founding in 2007, succeeding Desmond Tutu as Chair in May 2013 until his passing in August 2018. Between February and August 2012 Kofi Annan temporarily recused himself as a member of The Elders during his UN and Arab League assignment as Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis.
Kofi Annan’s first engagement with The Elders came in November 2008 when, together with Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel, he drew the world’s attention on the humanitarian crisis affecting Zimbabwe.
In May 2011, following months of post-election violence, Mr Annan, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu travelled to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to encourage reconciliation. After meeting President Ouattara, civil society representatives, members of the opposition and people who had fled their homes in the fighting, he warned that much of Ivorian society remained polarised and stressed that the new government’s role was to ensure the safety and security of all Ivorians. In October 2013, an Elders’ delegation led by Kofi Annan revisited Cote d’Ivoire to assess the progress made in the recovery of the country and discussed the challenges it faces ahead of the 2015 elections. The group met with a number of interlocutors to encourage them to step up efforts for reconciliation and to urge the need for preparing the elections with integrity in order to avoid the outbreak of a new conflict.
In January 2014, Kofi Annan together with Martti Ahtisaari, Desmond Tutu and Ernesto Zedillo visited Iran to encourage dialogue between Iran and the international community and promote peaceful solutions to conflict and sectarian divisions in the region. The Elders discussed how best to ease regional tensions, the spread of extremist violence internationally, the issue of human rights and the Syrian crisis, as well as their support to the progress being made in the international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Kofi Annan led The Elders delegation to Moscow in April 2015. Along with Martti Ahtisaari, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Lakhdar Brahimi, Jimmy Carter and Ernesto Zedillo, Mr Annan spoke to Russian officials about key geopolitical issues. During the trip, The Elders met with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
In September 2016 Kofi Annan together with Martti Ahtisaari and Lakhdar Brahimi visited Berlin to hear a range of perspectives on the country's response to the refugee crisis: from Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal President Joachim Gauck and business leaders, to civil society groups, volunteers and refugees themselves. This trip also marked the launch of a new report on refugees and migration.