Nelson Mandela has marked his 89th birthday by forming a “council of elders” dedicated to finding new ways to resolve some of the world’s longest-running crises.
The former South African president launched his fellow elder statesmen on a new venture to foster peace, reduce conflict and despair during a birthday celebration on Wednesday.
Among them are Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, Jimmy Carter, the former US president and Desmond Tutu, the retired South African archbishop.
Mandela said he hoped the new humanitarian alliance of Nobel peace laureates, politicians and development experts could make a difference.
The group called The Elders was an idea of British entrepreneur Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel, both of whom were present at the launch.
Branson and others pledged $18m to fund The Elders over three years.
Other members include Ela Bhatt, a women’s rights campaigner from India, former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, Li Zhaoxing, the former Chinese envoy to the UN now based in Africa, Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, a children’s rights campaigner, former Irish president Mary Robinson, and Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen bank, the pioneering micro-credit institution.
On stage, a chair stood empty for Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was invited to join the group but is under house arrest in her homeland.
Happy birthday Nelson.