South 2 North

What is ethical leadership?

South2North discusses peace, justice, human rights and leadership in the 21st century with The Elders.

No subject is off limits – Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world.

As a part of a two-part town hall meeting at the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, Redi and an audience of global South citizens pose questions to some of the world’s most influential leaders.

South2North 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 Bruntland, the former prime minister of Norway; and Hina Jilani, a Pakistani human rights activist.

“We need leaders like Madiba,” says Tutu, referring to former South African president and Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela, who handpicked the initial Elders in 2007. “We need people who are not there for what they can get out; they are there for the sake of the people.”

Read Desmond Tutu’s article on the lack ethical leadership in Syria

“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,” Bruntland tells the audience, which included two Nobel Prize winners, former American 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, “we don’t just speak truth to power; we show wisdom to power.”

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.

Bruntland and Annan discuss the recent terrorist attack on Westgate Mall in Kenya. Bruntland 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 … There was a lot of blame to be given; it was a tragedy and every stone was turned to try and prevent similar incidences.”

Annan also discusses the conflict in Democractic 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 today.”

Tutu discusses the state of South Africa and the pain of speaking out. “It’s one of those agonising 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 agonising.”

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