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Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian career diplomat and former Secretary-General of the United Nations

Kofi Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana, on 8 April 1938. Annan, whose father was governor of Asante province and a hereditary paramount chief of the Fante people, studied at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi before enrolling at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S., where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics. From 1961 to 1962, he undertook graduate studies in economics at the Institut universitaire des hautes études internationales in Geneva. As a 1971- 1972 Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Annan received a Master of Science degree in management.

A 2004 visit to the Iridimi Refugee Camp in Chad (Kofi Annan / Twitter)

Kofi Annan of Ghana, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, served from 1997 to 2006 and was the first to emerge from the ranks of United Nations staff. Mr. Annan joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva. He later served with the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, the UN Emergency Force (UNEF II) in Ismailia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, and in various senior posts in New York dealing with human resources, budget, finance and staff security. Immediately before becoming Secretary-General, he was Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping. Mr. Annan also served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia (1995-1996) and facilitated the repatriation from Iraq of more than 900 international staff and other non-Iraqi nationals (1990).

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As Secretary-General, Mr. Annan’s first major initiative was his plan for reform, “Renewing the United Nations”, which was presented to the Member States in July 1997 and has been pursued ever since with an emphasis on improving coherence and coordination.  His April 1998 report to the Security Council on “The Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa” was among several efforts to maintain the international community’s commitment to Africa, the most disadvantaged of the world’s regions.  He has used his good offices in several delicate political situations.  These included an attempt in 1998 to gain Iraq’s compliance with Security Council resolutions; a mission in 1998 to help promote the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria; an agreement in 1999 to resolve a stalemate between Libya and the Security Council over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing; diplomacy in 1999 to forge an international response to violence in East Timor; and efforts in 2000 to certify Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, and then to try and halt the violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kofi Annan with family members. Source: Kofi Annan Foundation

One of his main priorities during this period was a comprehensive programme of reform that sought to revitalize the United Nations and make the international system more effective. He was a constant advocate for human rights, the rule of law, the Millennium Development Goals and Africa, and sought to bring the organisation closer to the global public by forging ties with civil society, the private sector and other partners. At Mr. Annan’s initiative, UN peacekeeping was strengthened in ways that enabled the United Nations to cope with a rapid rise in the number of operations and personnel. It was also at Mr. Annan’s urging that, in 2005, Member States established two new intergovernmental bodies: the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council.

Mr. Annan was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace, jointly with the Organization. He has also received numerous honorary degrees and many other national and international prizes, medals and honours. Annan coauthored a number of works. The memoir Interventions: A Life in War and Peace (cowritten with Nader Mousavizadeh) was published in 2012. He is married to Nane and between them they have three children and five grandchildren. He died on the 18th of August 2018 at the age of 80 in hospital in Bern, Switzerland, after a brief illness. He had been living near Geneva for several years.

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