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October 25, 2016

Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation Celebrates Archbishop Tutu with Facebook Live: #TutuAt85

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

On October 7th, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, was able to do something remarkable. We launched Facebook Live: #TutuAt85, a multi-continent celebration of the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s 85th birthday. From Cape Town to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, people around the world joined on social media to with celebrate our Arch – all thanks to the wonderful support of our friends at Facebook.

The celebration kicked off with a first – even for the social networking platform – at 7 am SAST, Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation launched a Facebook Live stream of the Friday Eucharist, presided by the Archbishop himself. This event was unique as it marked the first time a major church service had ever been streamed live to Facebook. Thousands across the globe joined friends, family and community members gathered in St George’s Cathedral to rejoice and celebrate the life of this amazing man. In addition to the traditional Eucharist service, the Archbishop paid a moving tribute to the cathedral, where he paused to weep briefly.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu gives Eucharist at St. George’s Cathedral on October 7th, 2016 Photo: Sumaya Hisham

Archbishop Desmond Tutu gives Eucharist at St. George’s Cathedral on October 7th, 2016
Photo: Sumaya Hisham

That afternoon, the #ShareTheJoy team live-streamed as they went through downtown Cape Town, inspiring young people to perform acts of joy – a campaign inspired by the recent book by Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy. The streets of downtown Cape Town came alive as the #ShareTheJoy Team handed out cupcakes to passers by.

Human rights champion, Advocate Hina Jilani delivers the 6th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the Artscape Theatre. Photo: Sumaya Hisham

Human rights champion, Advocate Hina Jilani delivers the 6th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the Artscape Theatre.
Photo: Sumaya Hisham

For six years now, the celebration of the Archbishop’s birthday celebration day culminates in South Africa with the Desmond Tutu Annual Peace Lecture. An event sponsored by the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, this year’s lecture was hosted by Ms. Hina Jilani, an award-winning Pakistani Supreme Court advocate and human rights campaigner. Ms. Jilani who is a member of The Elders, an organization co-founded by Archbishop Tutu, gave a compelling speech on the need for peace in our communities. We were able to live-stream this event with the assistance of SABC television.

Of course, when the the celebration (at least the live-streaming portions) was wrapping up in Cape Town, we were just getting started celebrating across the globe! Friends and admirers of the Archbishop went live with their #TutuAt85 to share their birthday wishes to the Arch. Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Alanis Morissette, Graça Machel, FW de Klerk and so many others took time throughout the day to wish the Archbishop a Happy 85th!

And while dawn was breaking in Cape Town, the party was just getting started in Los Angeles! Quincy Jones, Incubus, Fishbone, Lily Haydn, Pato Banton, Steve Vai, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and so many more artists joined Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation for UNITY: The Desmond Tutu Legacy Project. The three hour event was a celebration of the Archbishop kicked off the beginning of #TutuAt85, the first of a series of concerts scheduled to take place in cities all over the world. This entire event was shared live with tens of thousands of people across the world.

Quincy Jones arrives to the Saban Theatre for UNITY: The Desmond Tutu Tribute Concert Photo: Michael Collopy

Quincy Jones arrives to the Saban Theatre for UNITY: The Desmond Tutu Tribute Concert
Photo: Michael Collopy

We are so especially grateful to everyone who helped to make the Archbishop’s 85th birthday an extra special one, and especially to our friends at Facebook for providing us with the technology and platform to be able to share this amazing day with his friends and supporters all over the world.

If you missed any part of the Facebook Live: #TutuAt85, check out the video archives on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DesmondTutuPF/

July 10, 2015

Jimmy Carter & Gro Brundtland: UN Report Shows Accountability is Key to Unlocking Peace in Israel and Gaza

“Continued impunity and lack of accountability will greatly increase the likelihood of fresh conflict and further war crimes.”

The report by the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza war highlights rights violations and possible war crimes committed by both sides. Its findings echo what we heard on our own visit to Israel and Palestine two months ago. We received many first-hand accounts of the effects of the war on both Palestinian and Israeli civilians.

We came away from Israel and Palestine convinced that political leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas all need to be subject to greater accountability so that they uphold the rule of law.

This is why we welcome the Commission of Inquiry’s report as a potential milestone on the path to accountability. The report is as objective and even-handed as circumstances allowed, as is to be expected with the highly regarded US judge Mary McGowan Davis as Commission Chair.

House in Israel destroyed by Hamas rocket. Photo: Israel Defence Forces

It is regrettable that neither Israel nor Hamas responded to the Commission’s questions about specific incidents and legal and policy issues – unlike the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, which did provide answers. Israel went further, refusing any cooperation and denying entry to Palestinian territories to members of the Commission on the grounds of “inherent bias” – a charge repeated again by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the report was published.

Israel regularly complains about perceived bias by the UN and its institutions (notably the Human Rights Council), and other international actors – including, on occasion, The Elders. In such a deep-rooted, protracted and torturous conflict, objectivity becomes a precarious commodity and accusations of bias can be easily deployed by both sides to deflect criticism.

It is worth noting that Hamas has also rejected the Commission’s criticisms. When institutions, be they UN-related or respected NGOs, are loudly criticised by both parties to a dispute or conflict, the likelihood is that they have acted in a spirit of neutrality.

Destroyed ambulance in Gaza Strip Photo: Boris Niehaus

Ironically, Israel and Hamas both complain that they are being compared to one another in the report. Israel, as a sovereign, internationally-recognised state, objects to any comparison to what it calls a terrorist organisation; likewise, Hamas in its self-declared role as a “resistance movement” sees no comparison between its actions and those of an occupying military power.

These complaints obscure a wider point: the actions of both Israel and Hamas should be measured against international standards of behaviour. It is not a question of equivalence, but of equal and fair treatment under international law.

The Commission’s report recommends that the parties to the Gaza conflict should themselves take responsibility for prosecuting and ensuring appropriate accountability for violations of international law. However, it seems that neither Israel nor Hamas can be relied upon to do so. Consistent with past practice in previous conflicts over Gaza, Israel’s own report has exonerated its armed forces from any blame for civilian deaths in Gaza, including four children killed on a beach, attacks on UN schools where displaced inhabitants were taking shelter, and apparently deliberate destruction of civilian homes.

Hamas claims the report establishes a “false balance” between victims and killers – ignoring those killed by its own attacks. Impunity flourishes in this climate of denial and self-justification, making ordinary citizens on all sides more vulnerable to violent attacks and human rights abuses.

This is why The Elders support the Commission’s main recommendation that “the parties should cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and with any subsequent investigation by the ICC that may be opened.”

The decision by the Palestinian Authority to now submit evidence to the ICC on the Gaza war, illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners shows this issue will only gain in political salience in the weeks and months ahead.

The ICC is one of the nearest institutions to objective neutrality that the community of nations possesses. The more it is used and respected, the more effective it will become. It was set up to be one of the principal means of achieving accountability for war crimes and minimising impunity. Regrettably neither Israel nor the US are parties to the Court. In our view, they should be.

As the Commission’s report makes clear, impunity for breaches of international law, including war crimes, has prevailed “across the board” in recent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians, not least in Gaza. Continued impunity and lack of accountability will greatly increase the likelihood of fresh conflict and further war crimes. Already, diplomats on the ground are grimly forecasting a new, and even bloodier, round over Gaza.

The peoples of Israel and Palestine are weary of conflict; the international community is weary of years of failed negotiations; the donors are weary of rebuilding destruction and seeing no results for their generosity. If, however, the ICC can now enforce accountability this could increase the incentive for all parties to act within the law and convince them that the only way to resolve the conflict is through peaceful diplomacy, not force of arms.

Source: TheElders.org

June 6, 2015

The Elders: What kind of world will our leaders leave for the young?

Four senior statesmen and women from The Elders organization have faced an audience of young people to answer questions on the big issues facing the world today.

The four elders taking part were Kofi Annan, chair of The Elders and the UN Secretary-General from 1997-2006, Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the USA, Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and Hina Jilani, founder of Pakistan’s first all-women law firm and advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan since 1992.

The studio audience consisted of 15 students from around the world.

The debate was hosted by Matthew Amroliwala.

The Elders, founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 are a group of the world’s elder statesmen who use their experience to advise on conflict, resolution and human rights.

May 3, 2015

The Elders Focus On the Need for a Two-state Solution for Israel and Palestine

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Hilik Bar, Secretary-General of Israel's Labor Party and Norway's Former Prime Minister and Deputy-Chair of the Elders, Gro Harlem Brundtland

The Elders ended their visit to Israel and Palestine with a call for meaningful steps to stop the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and reconcile the different Palestinian factions. They are convinced that only a two-state solution can bring a just and lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and Deputy Chair of The Elders, and Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States, visited Israel and Palestine from 29 April to 2 May 2015.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border.

The Elders regretted that they were unable to go to Gaza on this visit but expect to have future opportunities to travel there, to witness the situation firsthand.

They held talks with President Mahmoud Abbas and senior political figures from both Israel and Palestine, civil society groups and ordinary citizens to hear their perspectives and convey The Elders’ commitment to a fair and enduring resolution to the conflict.

Jimmy Carter, former US President, said:

“What we have seen and heard only strengthens our determination to work for peace, the situation in Gaza is intolerable. Eight months after a devastating war, not one destroyed house has been rebuilt and people cannot live with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

The 2 Elders visiting Israel & Palestine meet Palestinian Authority Deputy PM Ziad Abu Amr.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, said:

“It is utterly unacceptable that people in Gaza and Israel live in constant fear of bombardments, incursions and rocket attacks. This causes long-term damage to their physical and psychological health as well as their homes and communities.”

The Elders said reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and the full establishment of the Government of National Consensus in Gaza, is vital to end further suffering.

President Carter said:

“This was the focus of our discussions with President Abbas. We are committed to continued engagement with the President and the Hamas leadership to advance Palestinian reconciliation.”

The Elders also expressed their steadfast support for the State of Israel’s right to exist in peace and security within internationally-recognised borders.

Gro Harlem Brundtland and Jimmy Carter visit Israel and Palestine

Prime Minister Brundtland said:

“We were heartened to hear ordinary Israelis telling us how much they want peace so they can live side by side with their Palestinian neighbours in a spirit of mutual respect, this gives us hope for the future. As Elders, we will continue to do all we can to work with the international community to deliver real peace and security to all people in the region.”

Source: The Elders, Official Press Release, May 2, 2015

September 16, 2012

Occupy the Elders

elephant_attacking_rhinoThe presence of an elder can be very powerful, and not only in human interactions. About 20 years ago there was a group of elephants that conservationists wanted to move. They didn’t have the ability to move the larger, older adults. The people in charge of moving the animals made a tough dissension. They thought their best option was to kill the parents and other family of the small young elephants. These little ones were traumatized by witnessing their parents being killed and then moved to a new location with no family.

These elephants grew up to be very aggressive. Park rangers noticed that elephants were killing rhinos. In the height of the violence they killed 36 rhino in one year. It is not unheard of for elephants to kill rhinos every once in a while, but these numbers were astounding! For many years people were very confused about how to stop the killings.

It turns out the solution was very simple.When older bull elephants were introduced, the violence stopped. It seems the bulls’ presence gave the younger elephants a model and an understanding of where they fit in.  The behavior patterns of young elephants returned to normal under their influence.

Modern culture often seems to ignore or discount the benefits of cross generational interaction.  As this example of the elephants indicates, the presence and perspective of elders may be one way to help create a more peaceful planet.