This 'gang' of peace makers that goes by the name of 'Global Elders' includes renowned personalities and Nobel laureates from across continents. Leaders like Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson and Jimmy Carter are among this extraordinary league of global peace makers who have offered their services towards efforts of international peace building and sustainable development.
Even though the organisation was a brainchild of Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel, Mandela was most enthusiastic about establishing this centre of global wisdom to benefit and inspire leaders of the following generations. With the help of Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu he brought together ten ‘Elders’ who were independent, progressive leaders. Together they have worked on global problems including peace and reconciliation in war-affected regions, sustainable development and equality for girls and women.
In his awe inspiring speech from the day of the launch of the Global Elders, Mandela asks the group to be “a fiercely independent and robust force for good, tackling complex and intractable issues – especially those that are not popular.” Watch the full speech here:
It is no surprise then that the Elders feel a much stronger sense of loss for Mandela. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Chair of The Elders, expressed his gratitude, “God was so good to us in South Africa by giving us Nelson Mandela to be our President at a crucial moment in our history.”
He reminisces the days of the ANC movement, “He inspired us to walk the path of forgiveness and reconciliation and so South Africa did not go up in flames. Thank you God, for this wonderful gift who became a moral colossus, a global icon of forgiveness and reconciliation. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed his grief, “The world has lost a visionary leader, a courageous voice for justice, and a clear moral compass. By showing us that the path to freedom and human dignity lies in love, wisdom and compassion for one another, Nelson Mandela stands as an inspiration to us all.”
He remembers Mandela as a close friend. “I shall never forget his expansive smile and gentle demeanour, nor his steely determination and wonderful sense of humour. I have lost a dear friend. While I mourn the loss of one of Africa’s most distinguished leaders, Madiba’s legacy beckons us to follow his example to strive for human rights, reconciliation and justice for all.”
Former US President Jimmy Carter said, “I was gratified to be able to work with him through The Elders to encourage resolution of conflicts and advance social justice and human rights in many nations. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world’s leading democracies.”
The only Indian Elder Ela Bhatt compares him to Gandhi, “The world has lost a great leader. Madiba showed the people of the world that great nations are built with moral courage and collective strength, with justice and equal opportunity, with truth and reconciliation, with love and forgiveness, with vision and wisdom. He was indeed the Gandhi of South Africa.”
Fellow Nobel laureate and former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, recalls the first time she met Mandela, “I was deeply impressed. He was a man who had been in prison for 27 years, but after his release did not want to waste his life by feeling bitter about his captors, however justified that would have been.”
“The most impressive man of my generation has passed away,” she concludes.