This Friday on Al Jazeera’s talk show South2North, Redi Tlhabi discusses ethical leadership in the 21st century with The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights.
In the first of two episodes filmed with The Elders at District Six Museum in Cape Town, Redi is joined by two African Nobel Prize winners – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the UN – as well as Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Prime Minister of Norway, and Hina Jilani, a Pakistani human rights activist.
The Elders discuss the qualities of ethical leaders.
“We mean leaders like Madiba,” says Tutu, referring to former South African president and Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela, who handpicked the initial Elders in 2007. “Ethical leaders are not there for what they can get out of their position; they are there for the sake of the people.”
“To be bold; to have the courage of your convictions; and to think long-term, not short-term or for political expedience; those are characteristics common to good leaders.” Brundtland told the 200-person audience, which included two Nobel Prize winners – former US President Jimmy Carter and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari – as well as two of The Elders’ co-founders, businessman Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel.
Jilani was appointed to The Elders in July 2013. She says part of what attracted her to the group was that “we don’t just speak truth to power; we show wisdom to power.”
The Elders discuss their advocacy work around issues such as child marriage, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and sustainable development, as well as conflict areas such as Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Lebanon, Myanmar, North Korea, and Syria.
“These people who should be retired are really working hard,” says Tutu. “A great deal of the work is often below the radar but some places would probably have gone up in flames if there had not been intervention from The Elders.”
The Elders debate whether military intervention is ever necessary; why prevention is always better than intervention; the difference between retributive justice and restorative justice; and balancing addressing the crimes of the past with the needs of the future.
Brundtland and Annan discuss the recent terrorist attack on Westgate Mall in Kenya. Brundtland compares it to the 2011 massacre at a Norwegian summer camp, which killed 77 people and was initially targeted at her.
“Of course in the first weeks, everyone was focused on the loss, on the terrible tragedies,” she remembers. “Gradually as the weeks and months passed, the focus shifted… We all have the right to know what happened and didn’t happen and who is to blame… It was a tragedy and every stone was turned to try and prevent similar incidences.”
Annan also discusses the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which dates back to the 1960s. He highlights its complexity, as well as the role of natural resources and cross-border interference in keeping the conflict alive. “A few years ago we called it ‘Africa’s World War,’ because about eight countries were involved,” he says. “Even today there are 11 countries involved in mediation.”
Tutu discusses the state of South Africa and the pain of speaking out. “It’s one of those agonizing things,” he says. “We are not speaking out of a position of hostility; it is because we have such a deep love for our country and we know that it has the capacity… Many good things have happened and we ought to acknowledge that but there are many other things that should have happened already by now. To think that we now are in a position where the gap between rich and poor is the widest in the world; it’s agonizing.”
This week’s episode of South2North – Redi’s first since her maternity leave – premieres at 19:30 GMT on Friday, 1 November 2013 and also screens on Saturday at 14h30, Sunday 04h30 and Monday 08h30. For more info, visit www.aljazeera.com/programmes/south2north/.
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