Keynote: Kofi Annan
Kofi A. Annan was the 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations and is the founder and chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation. In 2001, he and the United Nations were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Kofi Annan was praised for being “pre-eminent in bringing new life to the organization” (Norwegian Nobel Committee, October 2001).
Since leaving the United Nations, Kofi Annan has been active pressing for policies that will meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly in Africa. He continues to use his experience to mediate and resolve conflict.
In early 2008, he led the African Union’s Panel of Eminent African Personalities, which mediated a peaceful resolution to post-election violence in Kenya.
From February to August 2012, he was the UN–Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria, mandated to seek a resolution to the conflict there.
In 2007, Kofi Annan set up the Kofi Annan Foundation to promote better global governance and strengthen the capacities of people and countries to achieve a fairer, more secure world.
The Foundation works to identify new threats to peace and security and supports Mr. Annan’s preventive diplomacy and mediation activities. Kofi Annan chaired the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security (March 2011 to September 2012) and in January 2013, launched the West Africa Commission on Drugs, as a response to the surge in drug trafficking and consumption in West Africa and their impact on security, governance and public health. The Foundation also works with select partner organizations to amplify Kofi Annan’s voice and catalyse effective action on the promotion of food and nutrition security, sustainable development, and support for good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Mr. Annan is the founding Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which works for a food secure and prosperous Africa by promoting rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers. AGRA’s programmes invest in soil regeneration and health, improved seeds, access to markets, and building capacity and investment throughout the agricultural value-chain.
He chairs the African Progress Panel, which advocates at the highest level for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. The Panel includes distinguished individuals from the public and private sector and publishes an annual Africa progress report.
He is an active member of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights, and in 2013 was appointed its Chair.
Kofi Annan is currently Chancellor of the University of Ghana, and has held a number of positions at Universities around the world.
He is a board member, patron or honorary member of a number of organizations, including the United Nations Foundation.
Kofi Annan’s widely acclaimed memoir: Interventions: A Life in War and Peace was published in 2012.
Mr. Annan was UN Secretary General from January 1997 to December 2006. One of his main priorities during this period was a comprehensive program 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 organization 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, enabling the United Nations to manage a larger number of operations and personnel. It was also at his urging that, in 2005, Member States established two new intergovernmental bodies: the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council. Mr. Annan played a central role in creating the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, adoption of the UN’s first-ever counter-terrorism strategy, and in securing the acceptance by Member States that they have a “responsibility to protect” people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. His “Global Compact” initiative, launched in 1999, has become the world’s largest effort to promote corporate social responsibility.
Mr. Annan undertook wide-ranging diplomatic initiatives. In 1998, he helped to ease the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria. In the same year, he visited Iraq to resolve an impasse between Iraq and the Security Council over compliance with resolutions on weapons inspections and other matters; this effort helped to avoid an outbreak of hostilities which was imminent at that time. In 1999, he was deeply involved in the diplomatic process that led to Timor-Leste’s independence from Indonesia. He was responsible for certifying Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and in 2006 his efforts contributed to securing a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah. Also in 2006, he mediated a settlement of the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi peninsula.
Mr. Annan’s efforts to strengthen the Organization’s management, coherence and accountability involved major investments in training and technology, the introduction of a new whistleblower policy and financial disclosure requirements, and steps to improve co-ordination at country level.
Kofi 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. Kofi Annan facilitated the repatriation from Iraq of more than 900 international staff and other non-Iraqi nationals (1990) and also served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia and Special Envoy to NATO (1995-1996).