Peter Gabriel and “The Elders”

With Bono’s anti-poverty campaign and the rock-star filled Live Earth environmental concerts, the world now is accustomed to seeing musicians take on the world’s problems.

The latest is Peter Gabriel, at far left, who along with airline and media mogul Richard Branson is among the benefactors of the Elders, a group of former world leaders including Nelson Mandela who are determined to try to bring peace to world conflict, as well as other issues. They will do so through their advice and expertise, as many of them are long retired from the world stage.

So how did Gabriel get involved? He and Branson hatched the idea, and approached Mandela about it in 2001, according to London’s Telegraph. Gabriel was a big champion of the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s and founded the international human rights organization WITNESS.

Calling it “the most extraordinary day” of his life, Gabriel said, “The dream was there might still be a body of people in whom the world could place their trust.”

At a kickoff event in Johannesburg on Wednesday, Gabriel sang his anti-aparthied song “Biko” as Mandela wept.

“The Elders can become a fiercely independent and robust force for good, tackling conflicts and intractable issues, especially those that are not popular,” Mandela said, according to London’s Telegraph.

The group will “speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes, working wherever our help is needed.”

The group also includes Desmond Tutu, the Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town; former president Jimmy Carter; former Irish president Mary Robinson; former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan; and Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel laureate economist and founder of the Green Bank in Bangladesh, where he is known as “banker to the poor.”

The group has not said what issues they plan to tackle, and are likely to do much of their work in private, according to the Washington Post.

“Collectively, we’ll be a very forminable force,” Carter told the Post.

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