WFM – Canada joins with many others around the world in remembering the life of Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006. The Kofi Annan foundation announced his death August 18, saying he died after a short illness.
Current UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described Annan as “a guiding force for good . . . . In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”
Many of the breakthrough achievements that Annan prioritized as Secretary-General are ongoing program priorities for the World Federalist Movement, such as improving the UN’s peacekeeping capacities, the Responsibility to Protect, UN reform, and the International Criminal Court. After stepping down as Secretary-General, Annan served as Co-Chair of the CICC’s Advisory Board.
Annan not only exemplified the purposes and principles of the UN, but also worked to reform and strengthen the organization. He very much led the 2005 reforms which, notwithstanding the efforts by U.S. Ambassador John Bolton to water down the package, still stand as the most ambitious set of reforms since the organization’s founding in 1945.
UN Dispatch columnist Mark Leon Goldberg recalls the press conference at the time:
“I expected the press conference to be a victory lap. Or at least include a degree of well-deserved self-congratulations. But what I remember most from Annan’s remarks that day was how dissatisfied he sounded. That is because for all the important and necessary reforms to which governments gave their stamp of approval there was one they did not touch — nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament . . . . Kofi Annan could never really be satisfied with the world as it was. He had extremely high ideals and the rest of the international community rarely lived up to his expectations of them.
These qualities were also apparent in Annan’s strong public criticism of the George W. Bush administration’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq.
Annan will be remembered not only for his achievements at the United Nations but also for his post-UN work, which included his leadership of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace and human rights. His mediating efforts to negotiate a peace deal to end election-related violence in Kenya in 2008 is often cited as an exemplary implementation of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine.
In 2001 Annan was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his humanitarian work jointly with the UN as an organisation. In his acceptance remarks he said, “Today’s real borders are not between nations, but between powerful and powerless, free and fettered, privileged and humiliated.”