Nelson Mandela Foundation

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Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on 7 February 2015, The Elders announced four recommendations for strengthening the United Nations, including a review of the composition of its Security Council.

This is the first time The Elders have attended the internationally renowned Munich Security Conference. At a time of worsening tensions in the Middle East, Ukraine and other conflict zones, the need for credible and effective international governance is stronger than ever, and Munich is the right place and right time to make the case for strengthening the UN.

Seventy years since its foundation, the UN is still not delivering its Charter pledge “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. The organisation is seen as not truly representative of all member states and insufficiently transparent in its decision-making.

To this end The Elders issue four proposals to build a better and fairer UN system. Key to this is breaking the Security Council stalemate. The dominance of the P5 permanent members (US, UK, France, Russia and China) can lead to institutional deadlock and exclusion of the Global South. A new category of Security Council membership is needed: non-permanent members but who are immediately eligible for re-election, thus making them de facto permanent members if they secure the confidence of fellow member states.

P5 states must also be more responsible in using their veto, especially during a crisis where people are threatened with genocide or other atrocities. Beyond the veto, the Security Council should take care to regularly consult those people who are affected by its decisions, especially in conflict zones, and the whole UN should establish a more transparent and accountable system for choosing its next Secretary-General.

The full statement of The Elders’ proposals for strengthening the United Nations can be found at

The Elders are determined to keep up the pressure and make their voices heard from now until the election of the next UN Secretary-General.

The Elders are represented in Munich by their Chair, Kofi Annan; Deputy Chair Gro Harlem Brundtland; Martti Ahtisaari; and Graça Machel.

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About The Elders

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Nelson Mandela and the Elders in Johannesburg in 2010. (L-R: Graça Machel, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson, Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Martti Ahtisaari, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi) Credit: The Elders/Jeff Moore

The Elders are independent leaders using their collective experience and influence for peace, justice and human rights worldwide. The group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007.

The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan (Chair), Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland (Deputy Chair), Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Hina Jilani, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Ernesto Zedillo.

Desmond Tutu is an honorary Elder.