Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General and Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, has been appointed to take over from Archbishop Desmond Tutu as Chair of The Elders with immediate effect.

The decision was unanimously reached by the Elders at their latest biannual meeting in Ireland last week. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, will become Deputy Chair of the organisation.

Archbishop Tutu, who was Chair of The Elders since the group was convened by Nelson Mandela in 2007, had announced his intention to step down. He will remain as an honorary Elder.

“I am honoured and privileged to have been chosen by my fellow Elders to succeed Desmond Tutu as Chair of such a distinguished set of individuals,” said Kofi Annan. "I am also very grateful that Gro Harlem Brundtland – with whom I’ve worked closely at the UN – has accepted to join me as Deputy Chair.

“Together, our group of Elders possesses a considerable amount of international experience, but to apply this collective knowledge in the most effective way remains daunting. As Desmond Tutu himself often says, we are still ‘learning to Elder’.

“I trust that this young Foundation will continue to grow in its ability to inspire compassion, ethical leadership and a belief in undying hope which Desmond Tutu, throughout his life and as our Chair, has always championed.”

Desmond Tutu said: "As Elders we should always oppose Presidents for Life. After six wonderful years as Chair, I am sad to say that it was time for me to step down. I am looking forward to spending more time with my family.

“I am very fortunate to have become friends, over those years, with some of the world’s outstanding leaders. They are exceptionally generous and magnanimous people. It has been mind-blowing, for a former ghetto urchin like me, to have them sit under my gavel.

“Kofi is a brave, humble and dedicated leader. I have no doubt that he will steer this group to new heights. And with Gro as his deputy, there will truly be no stopping us!”

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, Graça Machel and Mary Robinson.

Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu are honorary Elders.

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