Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Madrid, Spain. Picture: Paul White/AP

New York - Former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon will join The Elders, a group of independent global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, it was announced Friday.

Kofi Annan, chair of The Elders and Ban's predecessor, welcomed the South Korean former diplomat to the group, which brings together global leaders who no longer hold public office.

"As a new member of The Elders from East Asia, he will bring a unique and valuable perspective based on his record of global leadership and understanding of geopolitics," Annan said in a statement.

The Elders is a non-political group that works for peace and human rights by engaging in private advocacy work and highlighting neglected issues.

"The Elders and the United Nations share the same values of justice, solidarity and a determination to fight for peace and human rights. I eagerly await the task ahead in this new chapter of my career," Ban said.

Ban served two terms as UN secretary general from January 2007 to December 2016.

He was widely tipped to run for president of South Korea earlier this year but announced he would not pursue the role, despite opinion polls showing him as a popular choice.