Elders in South Africa for ethical leadership debate

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Wednesday, 30 October, 2013

“It’s important that you don’t just speak truth to power, but you also show wisdom to power.” Hina Jilani The Elders, together with Al Jazeera’s South2North programme, held a public debate this week in Cape Town asking, "What is ethical leadership?"

Ten Elders in Cape Town

The Elders with Redi Tlhabi at the debate in Cape Town, South Africa. L-R: Desmond Tutu, Hina Jilani, Martti Ahtisaari, Redi Tlhabi, Jimmy Carter, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson

During their biannual meeting in Cape Town, The Elders hosted a debate on ethical leadership in the 21st century. Moderated by South African journalist Redi Tlhabi, the Elders answered questions from the audience on some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.

In the first of two back-to-back panel discussions, Kofi Annan, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Hina Jilani and Desmond Tutu tackled issues around peacebuilding, reconciliation and global governance.

What are the root causes of conflict? How can we build sustainable peace? And what would The Elders’ vision of a just and inclusive global community look like?

For Archbishop Tutu, an ethical leader is someone who puts the needs of the people above his or her own interests. Reflecting on the situation in South Africa, he spoke of the “deep hurt” that compels him to speak out against the desperate poverty and inequality he witnesses in South African society.

Hina Jilani, who joined The Elders in July 2013, described The Elders’ independence as one of the reasons she was attracted to the group. “It is a rare thing,” she said, “to establish a group of people who have experience in power or public office… [with] no stake or interest apart from the interest of humanity. It is very important to me that you don’t just speak truth to power, but that you also show wisdom to power.” During Wednesday’s debate she also discussed the challenges of achieving transitional justice in post-conflict situations:

Martti Ahtisaari, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson made up the second panel on justice, equity and human rights. They discussed leadership in Africa, the credibility of the International Criminal Court, and the potential for protest movements to bring about a more equitable world.

The debate, which took place on 30 October at the District Six Museum in Cape Town, was broadcast in two parts on Al Jazeera’s South2North programme on 1 and 8 November.

Watch part one, featuring Kofi Annan, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Hina Jilani and Desmond Tutu, and part two, with Martti Ahtisaari, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson.

Follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #EldersS2N.

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