The Elders wow the London crowds

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Desmond Tutu

Last night saw The Elders celebrate their fifth birthday in style, as Jon Snow hosted an evening of debate with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Irish President Mary Robinson and former US President Jimmy Carter at The Barbican, London.

The evening started with a joint appearance from Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel, with the two men explaining to Snow how their vision became a reality through a series of talks with Nelson Mandela.

As President Carter was keen to explain, the moral compass of figures such as Branson is an important to enable such work to take place: In my role you meet a lot of rich people. Theres rich people like Richard Branson who share our views, then theres rich people who see things a lot differently I prefer to spend my time with the Richard Bransons of this world.

A lively debate saw the three Elders touch on a wide range of subjects, with South Sudan, the United Nations, the war on drugs, Rio+20, Syria and child marriage all coming under the microscope. Although possibly the most insightful comments of the evening were those which cast some light on the process of Elders meetings.

We always start a meeting with a moment of silence, its important to have time to think about things, explained Mary Robinson.

We even do it when were meeting on a video conference call, I hear youre not supposed to do that, it doesnt stop us though. As for Arch [Archbishop Desmond Tutu], Im always asked what hes like - hes actually quite bossy!

Oh, I hear that come with the cloth, retorted Snow much to the amusement of the Archbishop and the audience. Tutu himself had some strong words on society and the dangers the world faced: We live in a thoroughly unfair world, instability is a consequence of this. Look at movements such as occupy Wall Street, we need to see a change happen throughout society.

The evening finished with a question and answer session, with the audience keen to pick the brains of The Elders, who had all demonstrated their ability for concise, insightful and cutting thinking throughout the talk. One of the more telling questions saw President Carter asked how he saw the difference between his current and former positions play out.

I certainly had more influence as President, however I didnt have nearly as much fun. We can all say what we like now, theres no fear that were going to be kicked out of office thats already happened!

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