Remembering Kofi Annan 1938 – 2018

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UNAC Vancouver acknowledges with sadness the death on Saturday 18th of August after a short illness, of the seventh UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. He was 80 years old.

Born in Ghana in 1938, Kofi Annan was educated in that country and in the US. He joined the United Nations, working in the New York mailroom, in the mid-sixties.

Kofi Annan served two 5-year terms as UN Secretary-General from January 1st, 1997 to December 31st, 2006. He was the UN’s first African Secretary-General and the first, and so far only, Secretary-General who rose through the ranks of the organization.

In a BBC interview on his 80th birthday in April 2018  Kofi Annan said that for him, his greatest success was the setting up of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, which for the first time set development targets, as well as evaluating and quantifying the development progress (or lack of it) of each of the UN’s 153 Member States.

For those of us who had the honour to serve in the UN under Secretary-General Annan, one of his greatest successes was in 2003 when a hopelessly divided Security Council was wrestling with the decision to endorse, or not, the American and British governments’ plans to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. After days of acrimonious public debate and behind the scenes diplomacy Kofi Annan ensured that the United Nations would not lend its diplomatic and moral support to what many people judged to be an illegal invasion.  The governments of George W Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq anyway but without UN diplomatic cover, and they never forgave Annan who continued to serve as UN S-G for another four years.

Kofi Annan was a realist who realized that the UN had very human faults. While acknowledging the failings of the organization – including some poor decisions taken by himself, he would always add that if the UN did not exist, the world would need to create something else like it.

For more information about Kofi Annan, visit the website of the Kofi Annan Foundation and the UN website. Kofi Annan’s autobiography, “Interventions,” was published in 2013.

 

George Somerwill

UNAC-Vancouver Board Member

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