Kofi Annan : Literally “The Best of Africa”

Kofi Annan, one of the worlds most celebrated diplomats who rose through the ranks of the United Nations (UN) to become the first black African Secretary General passed away on 18 August 2018 at the aged 80. He had a long impactful life and career that was dedicated to advocacy for peace and reform. Through this long life and career, he was truly and literally The Best of Africa.

His was a steady rise that young people who wish to dedicate their lives and careers to diplomatic service and developmental causes can learn from. One of four children, Annan’s father was a cocoa buyer. He was sent to boarding school in the Gold Coast and went to the College of Science and Technology in Kumasi. He stated that his simple upbringing shaped his character and gave him the ability and freedom to adjust to any environment he found himself in. Following studies in the U.S, he went to Geneva for graduate studies in economics where he perfected his French. He then joined the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an Administrative Officer in 1962. In the years that followed, he progressively worked for the UN Secretariat and UN agencies. This included the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.

In 1997 following the suspension of Boutros Boutros Ghali’s candidacy, Annan became Secretary General of the UN. Key achievements during his career included recommendations for UN reform, encouraging states to adopt the Millennium Development Agenda, suggesting the establishment of the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS)a consortium of high tech volunteer corps, establishment of the Global Fund dedicated to tackling the HIV/Aids crisis and encouraging global states to endorse the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect which highlights the importance and obligation states have to intervene when fellow states fail to protect their citizens.

Even after stepping down from his diplomatic post as secretary general in 2006, Annan continued to serve an influential role in international relations. In 2007 he served as a negotiator when post-election violence broke out in Kenya, in 2012 he was named as a special representative in the Syrian Civil War and in 2013, he became chair of “The Elders”, a group of retired former diplomats who have regular meetings.

Annan also continued to lead through various international humanitarian and developmental endeavours. In 2007 Annan established the Kofi Annan Foundation, a non-profit organisation that promotes better global governance and strengthens people’s capacity in order to create a fairer and more peaceful world. He was involved in various organisations and institutions such as One Young World, the Global Humanitarian Forum, United Nations Foundation and the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

In 2014, during a session at the One Young World Summit in Dublin, Annan encouraged young people to act now on key issues:

“We don’t have to wait to act. The action must be now. You will come across people who think we should start tomorrow. Even for those who believe action should begin tomorrow, remind them tomorrow begins now, tomorrow begins today, so let’s all move forward.”

Annan will be remembered as a man who dedicated his life to making the world a more peaceful and just place by implementing and encouraging action. From him we can all learn to live a life of purpose and service to humanity and the planet we all share.


Featured image– Expert Meeting 2014 | Africa Progress Panel | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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