The Nobel Peace Laureate and Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu is to chair a global group of “elders” who will visit some of the world’s conflict zones to offer experience, wisdom, and advice on moving toward non-violent solutions in the face of war and devastation.
The announcement of the innovative scheme took place close to the site of the prison where Nelson Mandela was once held captive on Robben Island.
It aims to turn ‘celebrity culture’ towards substance rather than froth, by utilizing the skills and influence of publicly known figures of experience who have a proven commitment to peace, justice and ecology.
But it sis also based on the notion of 'eldership' (the wisdom of past generations) which plays an important role in many societies outside the West.
Alongside Tutu, those involved include the former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan; the former President of Ireland and UN human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson; the Bangladeshi economist and Nobel Prizewinner Muhammad Yunus; and Graca Machel, wife of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela. She was a government minister in Mozambique.
Nelson Mandela, who helped get the venture off the ground, and former US President Bill Clinton, were among the many high-profile backers sending their best wishes and support.
Jean Oelwang, who runs Virgin Unite, the coordinating organization for Richard Branson’s group of charities, is expected to direct the project with the backing of the entrepreneur.
Backers from the arts, including rock musician and world music impresario Peter Gabriel, will also be involved.
Those involved and those backing the project believe that independent individuals working in cooperation can help with conflict resolution and transformation in ways that politicians, diplomats and political intermediary bodies sometimes struggle to do.