Scilla Elworthy Ph.D

Founder of the Oxford Research Group in 1982 and director for 20 years, developing effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics. This work included a series of dialogues between Chinese, Russian and western nuclear scientists and military which formed the basis for later treaties, and for which I was three times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

I founded Peace Direct in 2002 to fund, promote and learn from local peace-builders in conflict areas, leading to the acceptance by the UN of the value and cost effectiveness of ‘locally-led’ initiatives. Peace Direct was voted ‘Best New Charity’ in 2005. I was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize in 2003, and the Lifetime Achievement Award by Voice of a Woman in 2013. 

Before this I was chair of Kupugani, the nutrition education NGO in South Africa, helped establish the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, set up the Minority Rights Group in France, for whom I produced the first report on Female Genital Mutilation, wrote UNESCO’s submission to the United Nations Mid-Decade Conference on Women in 1980. From 2005 I was adviser to Peter Gabriel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson in setting up ‘The Elders’ - an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights. Bryan Adams photographed me for the Modern Muses exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery in 2009. I was director of programmes for the World Peace Festival in Berlin August 2011, and programme co-ordinator for the Celebrate Life Festival near Bremen in 2012. 

I am chair of the Civil Society sector of the Hanwang Forum in China, a platform to enable China to drive the development of an inclusive, ethical, resilient global society at scale and with a sense of urgency. I'm a Councillor of the World Future Council, patron of Gender Rights and Equality Action Trust, Voice of a Woman, and Oxford Research Group; adviser to MasterPeace; a member of the International Advisory Council of the Institute for Economics and Peace and of the Steering Committee of PAX, a service to help prevent wars and genocides. I am founder of the Bee School, to provide skills to young people who want to serve the planet; and adviser to the DO School in Hamburg, offering training, mentoring, and education for outstanding emerging social entrepreneurs to kick-start their own ventures all around the world. I advise the executive leadership teams of selected companies who want to make a positive contribution to the planet.

I am proud mother of Polly Jess McLean, step mother of Leigh, Jay, Shirley, Sophie and Pippa, and grandmother of Pearl Mai Mary, Wolfetone and Rainer.

A biographical interview with Andrew Harvey is here.


1943 – Born Galashiels, Scotland to Betty (nee Cunningham) and Fred Elworthy
1954 – Herts County Scholarship to Berkhamsted School for Girls
1962-1965 – Trinity College, Dublin: Diploma in Social Sciences
1966-69 Marketing for boutique chains in S. Africa, introduced Mary Quant range.
1969 Private pilot’s license
1970 Married Murray Stowe Mclean
1970-76 Chair of KUPUGANI the South African nutrition education organisation; instituted sale of nutritious Christmas hampers to industrial employees thereby providing annual self-financing for the charity of R6million.
1974 Gave birth to Polly Jess McLean
1976 Organised the building and launch of the Market Theatre, S. Africa’s first multi-racial theatre, when it was illegal for races to mix on stage or in audience.
1977 Established the Minority Rights Group in France.
1978 Researched and wrote the Minority Rights Group report on Female Genital Mutilation, leading to the World Health Organisation campaign to eradicate the practice.
1980 Researched and wrote UNESCO’s contribution to the United Nations Mid Decade Conference on Women: The role of women in peace research, peace negotiations and the improvement of international relations. Appointed Consultant on women’s issues to UNESCO.
1982 Established the Oxford Research Group, and for 23 years built up an international reputation for rigorous research into key global security issues (mainly WMD) and effective dialogue with government, the military and civil society. 
Raised funds annually to cover costs of a dozen employees.
1986 Edited (as Scilla Mclean) How Nuclear Weapons Decisions Are Made (MacMillan, London, 1986),  the first of some 40 books and reports on security issues.
1986 Speaker at Windsor Castle consultation on defence and security.
1986 Initiated the first of 10 subsequent delegations to China on international security issues
1988 Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for 1st time
1986-90 Led women politicians from E. and W. Europe in Dialogue with NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, working with Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert MacNamara, Lord Carrington.
1989 Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for 2nd time
1991 Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for 3rd time
1993 Awarded Ph.D in political science, Department of Peace Studies, Bradford University.
1996 Author: Power & Sex (Element Books) translated into 7 languages.
1997 First of ten ‘retreats’ organised for nuclear decision-makers and their critics.
1999 Delivered Schumacher Lecture
1999 Met a daft friend and played 'Sargents and Corporals' by the Findhorn River
1999 Commissioned Dylan Mathews to research and write what became War Prevention Works: 50 stories of people preventing war, published in 2000 by the Oxford Research Group
2000 Twiddled my thumbs
2001 Established Peace Direct to support those working non-violently in conflict areas (Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo) to prevent or resolve conflict, and to link them with those in safer areas for support and funding.
2001 Delivered Gandhi Memorial Lecture.
2002 Co-author with Prof Paul Rogers of War on Terrorism’: 12 month audit and future strategy options, Oxford Research Group, 2002.
2002 Produced Transforming September 11th at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
2003 Fact finding visit to Iraq resulting in 10 point plan for avoiding war; see Baghdad Diaries
2003 Awarded the Niwano Peace Prize in Tokyo.
2003 Handed over executive direction of Oxford Research Group to Professor John Sloboda
2004 Handed over executive direction of Peace Direct to Carolyn Hayman OBE.
2004 Provided main inspiration and material for Max Stafford Clark’s acclaimed production of Talking to Terrorists at the Royal Court Theatre, London. 
2005 Peace Direct awarded Best New Charity at the Charity Times Awards.
2005/06 Appointed Consultant to First Lady of Egypt on international peace issues.
2005 – 2008 Adviser to Sir Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel on the establishment of The Elders, a council of 12 wise men and women working on conflict issues globally.
2006 Co-author with Gabrielle Rifkind of Making Terrorism History (Random House, London).
2006 Played hide and seek with a mountain lion in the Sinai Desert and imagined my death.
2007 Case study on the siege of Fallujah in Iraq, used as the basis for Jonathan Holmes production of Fallujah at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane.
2007 Appointed Councillor of the World Future Council.
2007 Appointed Member of the International Task Force on Preventive Diplomacy.
2008 Launch of The Elders in Johannesburg on Nelson Mandela’s 89th birthday
2008 Co-designed and launched The Pilgrimage – 24 hour training to enable corporate leaders and teams step into new levels of their potential.
2009 Designed and launched Bee School - a year-long course to equip women and men with the skills, insight and knowledge to understand and address the challenges facing the planet, using 21st century consciousness.
2009 Co-author with Anne Baring of Soul Power (Booksurge, USA)
2009 Convened Conflict Transformation Collaborative in Nairobi, Kenya.
2009 Appointed Chief Strategist of the World Peace Festival, held in Berlin, August 2011.
2009 Keynote at Celebrate Life Festival, Germany. 
2009 Appointed Associate Fellow of Said Business School, Oxford; designed and developed the Leadership Programme in Conflict Transformation in the Middle East.
2009 Author Peace and Security Now, (Fetzer Institute, USA).
2009 Keynote at Self Knowledge and Global Responsibility, Beshara Centre.
2010 Keynote at St Johns College, Oxford, conference The Building of Peace.
2010 Speaker at Windsor Castle consultation Effective and Sustainable Reconciliation
2010 Appointed to the Steering Committee of PAX, a service to help prevent wars and genocides.
2010 Keynote at Celebrate Life Festival, Germany. 
2010 Author of Tools for Peace published by World Peace Partnership, July 2010.
2010 Keynote at Self Knowledge and Global Responsibility, Beshara Centre.
2010 Working member of Future Justice Commission of the World Future Council.
2011 Keynote speaker Wurzburg conference, Germany; Zegg conference, Germany; Being the Change, London.  
2011 August World Peace Festival Berlin 20-27 August, Director of Programmes.
2011 Author of Peace Begins with Me (World Peace Partnership, July 2011). 
2011 World Peace Partnership Award for Outstanding Contributions to Global Peace Building.
2012 Appointed chair of the Civil Society sector of the Hanwang Forum in China, a platform to enable China to drive the development of an inclusive, ethical, resilient global society at scale and with a sense of urgency. 
2012 Co-organiser of Consciousness & Conflict Transformation at Celebrate Life Festival, Germany
2012 Appointed patron of Gender Rights and Equality Action Trust
2012 Appointed patron of Voice of a Woman
2012 Half killed myself completing the Nairnshire Challenge, biking and hiking across the Scottish Moors
2012 Appointed adviser to MasterPeace - a new international bottom-up peace initiative
2012 Trustee of Self Knowledge Global Responsibility – spreading the experience that self-awareness can lead to a powerfully fulfilling life of service.
2012 TEDx Exeter How do I deal with a bully, without becoming a thug myself? 
2012 Appointed to the International Advisory Council of the Institute for Economics and Peace.
2012 Co-designed and delivered a 2-day leadership course entitled Awakened Leadership.
2012 Speaker at Hanwang Forum, State Guesthouse, Beijing.
2013 Co-founder of Rising Women, Rising World initial meeting, Oxford.
2013 Keynotes at: Rotary Annual Conference; Marianne Fry Annual lecture.
2013 Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Voice of a Woman.
2013/14 Executive leadership programme development with international corporations.
2014  Development of core curriculum for Rising Women, Rising World.
2014 Speaker at: Scotland Peace Conference; Spirit of Humanity, Iceland; Tagore Festival, Bristol Big Green Week, UK; Scientific and Medical Network conference; the Change Enquiry.
2014 September - great year for tomatoes but the pigeons got my peas.
2014 Author Pioneering the Possible - Awakened Leadership for a World that Works, published by North Atlantic Books.
2015 Ranked #32 on "The world's 100 most inspiring women" by Salt magazine.                                                                                   2016 Welcomed grandson Rainer into the world.                                                                                                                                 2016 Co-speaker at FemmeQ Summit in Berlin with 10 other pioneers of Rising Women Rising World.
2016 Co-facilitated (with Karen Downes) a 3-day course for women executives and social entrepreneurs called “Leading with Grace and Resilience” that drew participants travelling from as far as India and Chile.
2016 Received Dadi Janki Award after being chosen one of the 100 Women of Spirit in the UK.

Wikipedia entry