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The Global Elders or The Elders is a group of public figures noted as elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates. The goal of the group is to solve global problems, using “almost 1,000 years of collective experience” to work on solutions for seemingly insurmountable problems like climate change, HIV/AIDS, and poverty, and “use their political independence to help resolve some of the world’s most intractable conflicts.” 
The Elders is chaired by former Archbishop Desmond Tutu and currently consists of 12 leaders.
The group was initiated by Sir Richard Branson and musician and human rights activist Peter Gabriel together with anti-apartheid activist and former South African President Nelson Mandela. The Elders are sponsored by a group of founders who helped raise US$18 million for the group over the last three years. Mandela announced the formation of the group on his 89th birthday on 18 July 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The group of Elders present at the announcement were:
At the launch ceremony a chair was left empty on the stage to signify Aung San Suu Kyi, the human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner who is a political prisoner in Burma. Other members who were not present at the launch were the Indian trade union leader and SEWA founder Ela Bhatt, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Algerian ambassador and veteran U.N. envoy and advisor Lakhdar Brahimi, and former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Ex-ambassador Li Zhaoxing of China expressed some concerns with the conflicts between the culture of universal values and the national interests of China. The former is characterized by concepts like human rights, democracy and political freedom as defined by the West, whereas the latter, according to Mr. Li, should be advanced by the Chinese nation as a group with its intrinsic traditions and values, defined by its current state of political development. In this light, Ambassador Li is reluctant to act in this small group as an individual apart from the Chinese nation’s collective deliberation on issues that are highly sensitive to China. He was given a graceful exit for “personal reasons”.
Princess Mabel of Orange of the Netherlands was appointed as the group’s first Chief Executive Officer.
The announcement of the Global Elders was greeted with skepticism by conservative Canadian journalist Mark Steyn, who commented, “Old boomer slogan: Never trust anybody over 30. New boomer slogan: Never trust anybody under 80.”
The Elders’ first mission was to travel to Sudan in September-October 2007 to foster peace in the Darfur crisis. Another major initiative was The Every Human Has Rights Campaign. A third initiative, a mission to the Middle East is planned to begin in August.
The Elders have made several press statements on issues like Press Freedom, Sustainable Peace, The Middle East, Zimbabwe and Iran.
The Every Human Has Rights (EHHR) campaign was launched on the 59th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), December 10th, 2007, in Cape Town, South Africa. The Elders launched the initiative in partnership with a diverse group of global NGOs, civil society organizations and businesses to highlight UDHR principles, including the right to health, women’s rights, and freedom of expression. Launch partners included ActionAid, Amnesty International, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, International PEN, WITNESS, Realizing Rights, Save the Children and UNICEF. Through the year it plans to include partners from civil society organizations in the developing world through networks like CIVICUS and directly. According to the official press release, the EHHR campaign is an ongoing initiative of The Elders, with the stated goal of working to “empower global citizens to protect and realize the first-ever comprehensive agreement on human rights among nations”.
The Elders’ Darfur Mission took place from September 30th to October 4th of 2007. Elders Desmond Tutu, Lakhdar Brahimi, Jimmy Carter, and Graça Machel traveled to Sudan to assess the situation in Darfur and affirm the group’s support of the fragile peace negotiated between North and South Sudan in the two-year-old Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). They began the trip in Khartoum, where they met with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, other government officials, and representatives of opposition political parties, the United Nations, the African Union, the diplomatic community and international organizations, including humanitarian agencies. The Elders published a report on their findings titled “Bringing Hope, Forging Peace: The Elders Sudan Report”..
The Elders planned to send a three-person team on a mission to the Middle East from April 13-21, 2008, but unfortunately this could not take place  . Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, and Mary Robinson, planned to visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the interlocking Middle Eastern conflicts. The Elders planned to prepare a report for the public to help people understand the urgency of peace and what is needed to secure it. The Elders also planned to meet and begin to work with groups that will reinforce the efforts by the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate a peace agreement based on a two-state solution. The Elders announced that the mission would instead take place in August 2009.