In 1999 Peter began a conversation with Richard Branson about the need for a new gathering of world leaders for our increasingly interconnected global village. They took the idea for such a group, which they called “The Elders” to the man who embodies the qualities of leadership they were seeking – Nelson Mandela.
Peter said, “In traditional societies, elders always had a role in conflict resolution, long-term thinking and applying wisdom wherever it was needed. We are moving to this global village and yet we don’t have our global elders.”
In 2007, Peter and Richard’s vision became a reality. Mandela announced the formation of The Elders on his 89th birthday in Johannesburg saying “This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes. They will reach out to those who most need their help. They will support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict and inspire hope where there is despair.”
Prospective members were invited to join on the basis of a distinct set of criteria. Firstly, and most importantly, they should be independent. They should have earned international trust, demonstrated integrity, and built a reputation for inclusive, progressive leadership.
The Elders include six Nobel Peace Laureates and come from all over the world. They are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu. Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi are honorary Elders.