News & Analysis
Do Mandela's Elders Violate Human Rights?
The last word for Saturday in the BBC's live coverage of Egypt should go to the veteran of another liberation struggle: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He's now a member of the Elders, a group of global leaders who offer their advice on the challenges of our time. The Elders tweet: "'Brothers and sisters of Egypt, you have given the world the most precious gift: the belief that ultimately right will prevail.' Desmond Tutu" – BBC
Dominant Social Theme: The Elders are emerging as a force for social change and global good.
Free-Market Analysis: The Elders pack a mainstream-media punch. They've already received a good deal of mainstream media coverage. We queried "Elders, global leaders" and received nearly 500,000 cites on Google. TheElders.org website explains that the group is composed of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela (left). These eminent individuals "offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity."
The Elders currently consist of a number of prominent individuals from around the world. These include: Martti Ahtisaari; Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando H Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu. Nelson Mandela is an honorary Elder. These are impressive global figures, and it is certainly not our place to question their good will. But in this article, we will examine the philosophical underpinnings of The Elders and raise some objections to the implicit and explicit approach to human rights taken by the group. First some background.
According to the website, the idea of The Elders came out of a discussion between Virgin-Airline owner Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel. These successful men saw the world evolving the same way, interdependently, and as a result, according to the website, they began to wonder if a "small, dedicated group of independent elders (could) help to resolve global problems and ease human suffering." In traditional societies, elders are often looked on as wise arbitrators who help provide solutions to community problems.
Branson and Gabriel approached the famous peace activist and liberator of South Africa Nelson Mandela and he in turn brought on board Graça Machel and Nobel Peace Prize winner and apartheid activist Desmond Tutu. Together, these three provided the core support for the concept, which eventually resolved itself around certain very specific criteria from a management standpoint: The Elders were to be independent, internationally trusted and should have built a reputation for "inclusive, progressive leadership."
Mandela himself presented the concept – and the newly appointed group – on July 2007, as part of his 89th birthday celebration in Johannesburg. "The Elders can speak freely and boldly," he said, "working both publicly and behind the scenes. They will reach out to those who most need their help. They will support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict and inspire hope where there is despair."
The Elders, according to the website, are to be committed to listening to the views of all groups and individuals when undertaking an initiative – and especially women and young people. And in pursuit of a successful outcome, The Elders are to work "publicly and behind the scenes and at all levels – local, national and international – lending support and advice when invited, and sometimes when it is not. A quick perusal of the activities reveals a busy schedule indeed. In the first quarter of February alone, the group has released four separate statements on ongoing missions, as follows:
8 Feb 2011: Sudan: The Elders commend orderly and peaceful referendum on South's self-determination ... The Elders have commended Sudanese leaders for the smooth and orderly conduct of the South's referendum on self-determination in January, the official results of which were announced yesterday. The Elders praised the authorities, in particular the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, for overcoming significant logistical challenges to ensure a successful voting process.
8 Feb 2011: Time for a renewed spirit of leadership in Cyprus ... Elders' chair Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his fellow Elder Dr Gro Brundtland today called for a renewed spirit of leadership in Cyprus, emphasising the need for courage and vision in order to achieve a lasting resolution of the conflict for the benefit of future generations.
4 Feb 2011: The Elders visit Cyprus and London to launch new documentary film on missing persons ... Elders' chair Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his fellow Elder Dr Gro Brundtland will travel to Cyprus on 8-9 February to support the release of a documentary film called "Cyprus: Digging the Past in Search of the Future."
4 Feb 2011: We stand with those crying out for freedom ... We are deeply concerned by the dramatic events unfolding across North Africa and many parts of the Middle East. As Elders, we stand with all those crying out for freedom and basic rights. The universal yearning of people to be free, to have their voices heard and to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and communities cannot be extinguished.
Much of The Elders' work involves traveling, consulting with individuals and groups involved in a specific problem or crisis and then making public statements that can highlight the issues in question in order to facilitate potential solutions or at least additional resources. The website describes, for instance, actions that have been taken by The Elders regarding Sudan:
In the Elders' first mission after the founding of the organisation, Archbishop Tutu, Lakhdar Brahimi, Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel visited Sudan in October 2007 to draw the world's attention to the region's humanitarian tragedy. The Elders met political leaders from North and South Sudan, political party representatives, UN agencies, African Union officials and diplomats. In Darfur, the Elders met tribal leaders, women's groups, civil society leaders and internally displaced people. The Elders called for an end to the atrocities and the displacement of millions of people and greater protection for the victims of ongoing violence.
Despite all the good The Elders seem to be doing, we have some difficulties with the venture. The Elders' presence at various world "hotspots" probably does bring attention to problems and even help focus resources on them. Yet it is being played out at a very high level. Tribal Elders, in our view, traditionally counsel extended families at a micro level. Such Elders would be aware of the issues and personalities in play and thus their advice is provided with intimate knowledge. The Elders organized by Nelson Mandela cannot offer this sort of intimacy, it seems to us. Instead, they must counsel the elites of the region or state. This is surely a more complicated endeavor and likely less feasible.
The UN seems to be a backer of the project as well. Kathy Bushkin Calvin of The United Nations Foundation is listed as a "supporter." Her bio reads in part: "Kathy Bushkin Calvin is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the United Nations Foundation, a public charity established in 1998 by Ted Turner to address global problems through public-private partnerships. Before joining the UN Foundation, Kathy guided AOL Time Warner's philanthropic activities as President of the company's foundation and was America Online's Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer. In 1999, she was recognized as the top communications professional in the technology industry and as one of the leading women in communications and public relations. In this same year, Kathy also co-founded the Stargazer Foundation, an online tool for nonprofits."
Ms. Calvin, and many other listed, form an activist backing that draws on predictable power-elite resources. Yet the impossibly wealth banking families of the Anglo-American elite – attempting to build one-world government – have created and implemented many of the problems (via their scarcity promotions), in our view, that the Elders are tasked to remedy. It begins to look in a sense like damage control.
There is a bigger concern. The Elders website has a focus on "human rights" as well. It informs us of the following: "In 1948 the newly formed United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; a global statement based on values of freedom, equality, dignity, tolerance, respect and shared responsibility. The principles contained in the Universal Declaration are as important today as they were in 1948 ... The Elders continue to emphasize the importance of these fundamental rights in every aspect of their work."
Here is how the US Declaration of Independence phrases it: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness ... That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."
Now let us compare this language to the aborted European Union Constitution, which took much of its inspiration from various UN and other humanist doctrines. Here is how the EU Constitution begins: "The Constitution establishes the European Union, on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common. The Union shall coordinate the policies by which the Member States aim to achieve these objectives, and shall exercise on a Community basis the competences they confer on it."
The Constitution makes it clear – "states confer competences." Another example: At TheElders.org, we find a listing of numerous human rights issues from the brutalization of women to problems with potable water. As regards the latter, the website informs us that, "To underscore the importance of access to clean water, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution to make access to water a basic human right in July, 2010."
Again, we see the UN General Assembly is bestowing human rights via resolutions. But what is to stop such a body from REMOVING or modifying human rights? Once the assumption is made that human rights are not vested in the individual and natural law, but in political processes, the end result must inevitably be that such rights are political and subject to the priorities of the state.
Conclusion: This is the bottom line philosophical problem with The Elders in our view. No matter how concerned The Elders are, no matter how many problems they want to solve, their outreach begins with the idea that the political, regulatory and economic apparatuses of the state define what rights a person does and does not have. This is apparently the defining mandate of The Elders and the reason why they are involved in campaigns for human rights; they are lobbying governments to provide the rights that humans are supposedly born with. This great venture of The Elders is unfortunately based on a sociopolitical philosophy that supports George Orwell's famous statement in 1984: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever."
Editor's Note: We have updated this article to better make a distinction between the UN's endlessly refined statement of "inalienable rights" and its practice and evolution. in practice, the fetish for "human rights" as endlessly defined and redefined by the UN is leading to an establishment of a vast international legal apparatus that creates state enforcement mechanisms for "human rights." Thus organizations like The Elders, while giving lip service to such rights end up reinforcing state power and implicitly endorsing the concept that only the state and "wise" leaders can define and implement these rights. The practice stands natural rights on its head and terminally confuses the conversation.
Posted by KP on 02/16/11 02:03 AM
Yes, I wouldn't give any of the ones I recognise the time of day. Parasites and publicity-seekers all, I can see only the dark fetid gloom of Socialism coming from any committee the are involved in.
Posted by A Mann on 02/15/11 05:09 PM
And a smart woman said to her husband: "Time and experience has shown me that I can only trust myself and you, and I am not altogether sure about you."
Posted by Ken on 02/14/11 10:03 PM
In America we are given rights that the gov.thinks it can take away,so must be they think they gave them to us.You are only free in your own mind and they are after that too.
Posted by Ernie on 02/14/11 03:37 PM
I have heard too many flowery speeches and seen the follow on disasters of the corresponding actions to place any faith in "humanitarian" heroes. If it hits media attention, you can bet it is a fraud. It will not solve any problems but simply rearrange the pieces with the elite losing nothing and the peasants being further played against one another. True change comes from grass roots and stays there. Anything coming from the pyramid is just another scheme to switch who gets the shortest end of the stick. True change grassroots style typically will create a balanced playing field among the players due to the horizontal nature of the players. Vertical imposed change always rearranges the rungs of the ladder. The "Elders" are a fraud.
Posted by Silver Lady on 02/14/11 03:22 PM
I believe Jimmy Carter's entire Cabinet was comprised of CFR and Trilaterals. He was the most obvious President to support the P.E. globalist agenda. So now he's an Elder running around representing the U.S. on issues like Women's Rights, aka Planned Parenthood, aka Population Control. The P.E.'s main instrument is the United Nations.
Another U.N. document that no one mentioned is the May 1976 CONFERENCE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS, or Habitat I. This is a truly evil document that openly states individuals are NOT to own land.
"Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes. Social justice, urban renewal and development, the provision of decent dwellings and healthy conditions for the people can only be achieved if land is used in the interests of society as a whole."
The resultant U.S. Act from this land use conference is the Federal Land Management Act, and it paved the way for the Earth Summit, Convention on Biodiversity, Convention on Climate Change, and Agenda 21 (in the U.S.: "Sustainable America, a New Consensus").
Ultimately, if the UN plan is realized, at least half of the land area of North America will be converted to wilderness, off limits to human beings. An additional 25% will be controlled by government in collaboration with "civil society" in which individuals will have to prove that a proposed use will not harm biodiversity. Humans are to be involuntarily relocated or resettled into "sustainable communities" (research I.C.L.E.I.)that are described as "islands of human habitat" surrounded by natural areas.
Click to view link (Sovereignty International's Land Use section) I live in one of the natural areas they (EPA, USFS, & USFG)are trying to squeeze everyone out of.
Again, those behind the UN are evil, and want to CONTROL our every breath. The Elders seem but yet another instrument.
Posted by Dr. Debra on 02/14/11 01:19 PM
@ Hugh B. Mulvaney Jr
Many people would argue, including me, that the reason that Carter was an ineffective president was he cooperated less with the Power Elite than did most other presidents. He was not as uncooperative as Kennedy, who wanted to dissolve the Federal Reserve, and was likely assassinated over it, but he refused to create a war, to create a cash flow to the Power Elite. Carter is likely our most honest and ethical President in many years.
Reply from The Daily Bell
That's interesting. But he was, in a sense, hand-chosen by Rockefeller wasn't he?
Posted by Gethky on 02/14/11 12:31 PM
I get only 91 hits when searching Google for "Elders, global leaders" " with the quotation marks.
Reply from The Daily Bell
search ... (no quotes)
the elders global leaders
Posted by Hugh B. Mulvaney Jr. on 02/14/11 11:06 AM
i need see only two names in the so-called elders group to turn me off at once: jimmy carter (one of the most ineffective presidents ever to sit in the white house) and kofi annan, whose son was implicated in a questionable oil deal while his father was un secgen. by the way, any idea how much of a pension annan is pulling down? i for one and probably many others would like to know.
Posted by PETER J. NICKITAS on 02/14/11 09:16 AM
Your conclusion merits recalculation in the face of the plain words of the Preamble and Article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR regards human rights as INALIENABLE, not the gift of the State, but rather a common birthright -- endowed by the Creator of humankind as peoples understand "Creator". I copy and paste the Preamble and Articles 1 " 2 for your examination.
Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be
disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full
Click to view link (1 of 6)12/24/2003 7:02:54 AM
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Reply from The Daily Bell
See below, from Conservapedia
Click to view link
In the 20th century, secular concepts of human rights proliferated: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the American Convention on Human Rights; the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights; the European Convention of Human Rights; various UN conferences' declarations on the environment, economic development, AIDS, and other topics; and the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights or UDHR ...
This document contains thirty articles listing about fifty rights authored and approved by the UN under the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, among others.
The Universal Declaration provides:
"Article 29 (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations."
The first International Conference on Human Rights was held in Tehran, Iran, in 1968. A powerful bloc of Asian, African, and Arab states successfully asserted their control over the UN Human Rights Program. Their aggressive conference diplomacy was the culmination of a major transition in UN politics, with supposedly Western notions of individual freedom rejected in favor of an agenda that privileged economic modernization and the collective rights of peoples in Third World nations over those of individuals in those nations.
Twenty years after the iconic image of Eleanor Roosevelt holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the residual elements of the program she presided over were repudiated in a storm of insistent demands from the new anti-colonial order.
Reasons Why the UN Human Rights Committee Is Ineffective Author Geoffrey Robertson says that the United Nations Human Rights Committee has failed its purpose.
In 1976, the UN passed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This covenant, which had been in the drafting phase for nearly thirty years, was meant to present, in treaty form, the ideals encapsulated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
[However,] The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights focuses on state duties toward individuals and not individual rights against states.
Click to view link
Posted by Kenn on 02/14/11 07:57 AM
"The Elders, according to the website, are to be committed to listening to the views of all groups and individuals when undertaking an initiative ‒ and especially women and young people."
FOXNEWS AM FEB. 14: Egypt's Youth Movement Talk With the Military
Youth Movement? Hmmmm Where have I recently heard the term 'youth's?
Do I hear the creaking of the Elders bones???