Scilla Elworthy

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Scilla Elworthy at UCL in December 2015

Priscilla "Scilla" Elworthy (born 3 June 1943) is a peace builder, and the founder of the Oxford Research Group, a non-governmental organisation she set up in 1982 to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics, for which she was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. She served as its executive director from 1982 until 2003, when she left that role to set up Peace Direct, a charity supporting local peace-builders in conflict areas. In 2003 she was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize.[1] From 2005 she was adviser to Peter Gabriel, Desmond Tutu and Richard Branson in setting up The Elders.[2] She is a member of the World Future Council[3] and in 2012 co-founded Rising Women Rising World, a growing, vibrant community of women on all continents who take responsibility for building a world that works for all.

Her latest book is Pioneering the Possible: awakened leadership for a world that works (North Atlantic Books, 2014[4]), and her TED talk on non violence has been viewed by over 1,100,000 people.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Galashiels, Scotland, Elworthy attended Berkhamsted School for Girls on a Herts County Scholarship before moving to Ireland in 1962 to study social sciences at Trinity College, Dublin. During her vacations, she worked in refugee camps in France and Algiers. After graduating, she travelled round West Africa to South Africa and between 1966 and 1969 became involved in marketing for various boutiques, most notably introducing the Mary Quant range. In 1993, she gained her PhD in political science from Bradford University.

Personal life[edit]

In 1970, she married Murray McLean, a South African entrepreneur. She is mother of Polly Jess McLean (born 1974), step mother of Leigh, Jay, Shirley, Sophie and Pippa, and grandmother of Pearl May Mary and Wolfetone.[5]


From 1970–1976 she chaired Kupugani, a South African nutrition education organisation, where she set up an initiative which involved the sale of nutritious Christmas hampers to industrial employees thereby providing annual self-financing for the charity of R6million.[6]

In 1976 she helped organise the building and launch of the Market Theatre, South Africa's first multiracial theatre. Then in 1977 she established the Minority Rights Group in France and in 1978 she researched and delivered their report on female genital mutilation,[7] leading to the World Health Organisation campaign to eradicate the practice. From 1979–81 she became a consultant on women's issues to UNESCO[8] and it was during this time she researched and wrote UNESCO's contribution to the 1980 United Nations Mid-decade Conference on Women: "The role of women in peace research, peace education and the improvement of relations between nations".

In 1982 she founded the Oxford Research Group (ORG) an NGO which independently researched decision-making on security in the five major nuclear nations during and after the Cold War and brought together policy-makers, academics, the military and civil society to engage in dialogue with their critics. For this work she was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 2003 was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize.[9] She remained the executive director of ORG until 2003.

In 2003 Elworthy stepped down as executive director of ORG to found a new charity, Peace Direct, which supports local peace-builders in conflict areas. Peace Direct was named "Best New Charity" at the London Charity Awards 2005 and, although she is not involved in the day-to-day running, Elworthy remains an Ambassador for Peace Direct.

In 2002 she launched a production at the Royal Opera House theatre in London entitled Transforming 11 September. In 2004 she provided the basic material for Max Stafford Clark's production of Talking to Terrorists at the Royal Court Theatre in London; and in 2007 her case study on the siege of Fallujah in Iraq was used as the basis for Jonathan Holmes' production of Fallujah at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane.

Her work for the World Peace Festival in 2011 included building seven achievable goals for the Global Peace Building Strategy,[10] adopted by the World Peace Partnership. Dr Elworthy designed the programme for an international two-day conference on peacebuilding, the first day entitled "Peace is your business!" followed by a conference on the "Global Peace Building Strategy" including a morning of workshops entitled "Self Knowledge and Global Responsibility" featuring Dr Deepak Chopra. She and colleagues produced a booklet for the Festival entitled 'Tools for Peace', with an accompanying video produced by TalkWorks in association with Different Films Ltd. presenting a seven step process anyone can use to resolve conflict in the family, workplace or community.

In autumn 2007 Elworthy joined the EastWest Institute's International Task Force on Preventive Diplomacy; in 2009 was featured in the project Soldiers of Peace – Stories from 14 countries around the world – a documentary film narrated by Michael Douglas.

The Elders[edit]

Although she has lectured extensively around the world and appeared on television and radio throughout the last 20 years, her work was less in the public eye from 2005 to 2009 as she was advising Richard Branson, Desmond Tutu and Peter Gabriel on the creation of The Elders, "an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity."[2][11]


Dr Elworthy is a Councillor on the World Future Council, an independent international organisation launched in 2004 and focussing on the key challenges facing global society today, promoting successful policies for a sustainable future. Dr Elworthy specialises on the work of the Future Justice Commission, in particular the initiative for Guardians for Future Generations.[12]

Since the autumn of 2011 Elworthy has been working on a course in consciousness and conflict transformation for mid career professionals, in association with Thomas Hübl in Berlin. She is patron of The GREAT Inititiative Gender Rights and Equality Action Trust and a member of the International Advisory Council of the Institute for Economics and Peace; Voice of a Woman,[13] Oxford Research Group; adviser to MasterPeace – an international bottom-up peace initiative – and a member of the steering Committee of PAX, a service to help prevent wars and genocides, and since the early 1990s, a member of the Society of Friends.

In 2013–14 Elworthy worked with a group of young social entrepreneurs at the DO School in Hamburg to raise awareness of the work of peace-builders worldwide.[14] She remains involved with The DO School and its international development through her position as a board member.[15]

In 2012 Elworthy co-founded Rising Women Rising World, a growing, vibrant community of women on all continents who take responsibility for building a world that works for all. "The custodians of this mission are a committed group of professionals, who, over the past 30 years have been shaping their respective fields: economics, business, governance, security, health, ecology, media, culture and the arts, education, spirituality and indigenous wisdom. Now, as Rising Women Rising World we come together to pioneer a possible future."[16]

Elworthy currently advises the leadership of selected international corporations on the new values required for the 21st Century, and teaches young social entrepreneurs. Her latest book is Pioneering the Possible: awakened leadership for a world that works (North Atlantic Books, 2014[4]), and her TED talk on non violence has been viewed by over 1,000,000 people.


Elworthy has written, edited and contributed to myriad reports, articles and books including:

  • 1986 Editor: How Nuclear Weapons Decisions Are Made[17] (Macmillan, London)
  • 1987 Author: Who Decides? Accountability and Nuclear Weapons Decision-Making in Britain, (Oxford Research Group).
  • 1988 Producer: The Nuclear Weapons World: Who How and Where,[18] (Pinter Publishers, London).
  • 1989 Author: Parliament, the Public and NATO’s Nuclear Weapons, (Oxford Research Group).
  • 1990 Co-author: New Threats and New Responses: proposals for future security decision-making in Europe, (Oxford Research Group).
  • 1991 Co-author: Defence and Security in the New Europe: Who will decide? (Oxford Research Group).
  • 1992 Editor: International control of the Arms Trade (Oxford Research Group).
  • 1996 Editor and contributor: Re-thinking Defence and Foreign Policy, (Spokesman Press, London).
  • 1996 Author: ‘Power & Sex[19] (Element Books)
  • 1997 Editor: Proposals for a Nuclear Weapon-Free World – a meeting between China and the West (Oxford Research Group).
  • 2001 Co-author: The United States, Europe and the Majority World after 11 September (Oxford Research Group).
  • 2001 Producer: War Prevention Works: 51 case studies of people resolving conflict[20] (Oxford Research Group, Oxford).
  • 2002 Co-author: A Never-Ending War? Consequences of 11 September (Oxford Research Group).
  • 2002 Co-author: The ‘War on Terrorism’: 12-month audit and future strategy options (Oxford Research Group).
  • 2001 Co-author: 9/11: What Should We Do Now?[21] (Open Democracy).
  • 2001 Author: Widening Atlantic[22] (Open Democracy).
  • 2002 Author: The Road Not Taken[23] (Open Democracy).
  • 2003 Author: The crisis over Iraq: the non-military solution[24] (Open Democracy).
  • 2003 Author: Waiting For The Dawn: A Bagdad Diary[25] (Open Democracy).
  • 2003: Author: Iraq: A Way Out?[26] (Open Democracy).
  • 2004 Author: Cutting the Costs of War: non-military prevention and resolution of conflict (Oxford Research Group).
  • 2004 Author: Peacemaking At The Sharp End: Iraq Before & After War[27] (Open Democracy).
  • 2005 Author: Learning from Fallujah’s Agony[28] (Open Democracy).
  • 2005: Author: Tackling Terror By Winning Hearts & Minds[29] (Open Democracy).
  • 2005 Co-author: Hearts and Minds: human security approaches to political violence[30] (Demos, London).
  • 2006: Author: If Diplomacy Fails[31] (Open Democracy).
  • 2006 Co-author: Making Terrorism History[32] (Random House, London).
  • 2009 Co-author: Soul Power (BookSurge).
  • 2010 Tools For Peace (World Peace Partnership)
  • 2010 Is it time for a worldwide strategy for the building of peace? (Open Democracy)
  • 2011 Peace can be planned. Just like health (Open Democracy)
  • 2011 Feast with your enemies – Dekha Ibrahim Abdi (Open Democracy)
  • 2014 Pioneering the Possible: Awakened Leadership for a World That Works (North Atlantic Books)

The reports produced by the Oxford Research Group are available from their website or, for the older reports, by contacting them directly.


  1. ^ "Why Dr. Priscilla Elworthy Was Selected for the 20th Niwano Peace Prize" (PDF). Niwano Peace Foundation. 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Brown, Mick (21 July 2007). "The power of twelve". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  3. ^ "The World Future Council: Scilla Elworthy". World Future Council. Archived from the original on 25 January 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Elworthy, Scilla (2014-10-17). Pioneering the Possible: Awakened Leadership for a World That Works. North Atlantic Books. 
  5. ^ "Private Scilla". Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ Elworty, Scilla (1991). Female Genital Mutilation. Minority Rights Group. ISBN 978-0-946690-90-9. 
  8. ^ "Scilla Elworthy articles". UNESDOC – UNESCO Documents and Publications. 
  9. ^ "20th Niwano Peace Prize". Niwano Peace Foundation. 2003. Retrieved 15 September 2012. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "World Peace Foundation". 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  11. ^ "Mission statement – The Elders". Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  12. ^ Dr. Scilla Elworthy (2016-06-08). "Future Justice". Future Justice. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  13. ^ "The Voice Of A Woman". The Voice Of A Woman. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  14. ^ Boersma, Maxine. "Entrepreneurs given a business plan". Archived from the original on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 February 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "Rising Women Rising World Homepage". Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  17. ^ Scilla McLean (ed.). How Nuclear Weapons Decisions Are Made. ISBN 9780312395308. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  18. ^ Patrick Burke. The Nuclear Weapons World: Who, How, and Where. ISBN 9780313265907. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  19. ^ Power and Sex: Developing Inner Strength to Deal with the World. ISBN 9781852309565. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  20. ^ Dylan Mathews; Paul Vernon. War Prevention Works: 50 Stories of Conflict Resolution. ISBN 9780951136164. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  21. ^ "9/11: What should we do now?". openDemocracy. 2001-10-10. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  22. ^ "Widening Atlantic?". openDemocracy. 2001-07-24. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  23. ^ "The road not taken". openDemocracy. 2002-09-10. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  24. ^ "The crisis over Iraq: the non-military solution". openDemocracy. 2003-01-15. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  25. ^ "Waiting for the dawn: a Baghdad diary". openDemocracy. 2003-01-14. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  26. ^ "Iraq: a way out?". openDemocracy. 2003-01-29. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  27. ^ "Peacemaking at the sharp end: Iraq before and after war". openDemocracy. 2004-03-18. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  28. ^ "Learning from Fallujah's agony". openDemocracy. 2005-11-07. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  29. ^ "Tackling terror by winning hearts and minds". openDemocracy. 2005-07-19. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 January 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2008. 
  31. ^ "If diplomacy fails". openDemocracy. 2006-05-10. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  32. ^ Scilla Elworthy; Gabrielle Rifkind. Making Terrorism History. ISBN 9781846040474. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 

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