Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general and Nobel peace prize winner, died yesterday (Aug. 18) in Switzerland after a short illness. He was 80.
A patrician diplomat and the seventh head of the UN (1997-2006), Annan will be remembered for his contributions to global peace and prosperity.
As the first black African to lead the organization, the Ghanaian emissary introduced key initiatives that protected and promoted human rights, improved sustainable development, and strengthened the global body’s place in the world.
At the turn of the century, one of his landmark proposals led to the creation of the Millennium Development Goals, which aimed to eradicate extreme poverty, combat malaria and HIV/Aids, improve maternal health, and more.
Invariably soft-spoken and exuding competence and probity, Annan concerned himself with maintaining international peace and the rule of law. One of his greatest regrets, he said, was not stopping the US-led war on Iraq in 2003, which he called illegal and a breach of the UN’s founding charter at the time.
During his decades-long career at the UN, Annan also faced a raft of criticism. As the under-secretary-general for peacekeeping in the early 1990s, he was criticized for the ineffectiveness of peacekeeping efforts during the Rwanda and Srebrenica genocides.
After leaving the UN, Annan established the Kofi Annan Foundation and served as chair of The Elders, a group founded by Nelson Mandela. He promoted peace and dialogue across Africa, most critically during Kenya’s post-election violence in 2008, and served as a special envoy for Syria early on in the war. In an increasingly changing and volatile world, he expressed concern over the state of global leadership, writing for Quartz in May that “Many people in economically precarious situations are seduced by the siren songs of cynical populists.”
For Africans his life will remain both inspirational and aspirational. As Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo said, “Undoubtedly, he excelled in the various undertakings of his life, leaving in his trail most pleasant memories. His was a life well-lived.” Source — Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz Nairobi correspondent
Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.
After stepping down from the United Nations, he continued to work tirelessly in the cause of peace through his chairmanship of the Kofi Annan Foundation and as chair of The Elders, the group founded by Nelson Mandela. He was an inspiration to young and old alike.
Kofi Annan was a son of Ghana and felt a special responsibility towards Africa. He was particularly committed to African development and deeply engaged in many initiatives, including his chairmanship of the Africa Progress Panel and his early leadership of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy. He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did. He will be greatly missed by so many around the world, as well as his staff at the Foundation and his many former colleagues in the United Nations system. He will remain in our hearts forever.
The family kindly requests privacy at this time of mourning. Arrangements to celebrate his remarkable life will be announced later." Website for Foundation.