Kofi Atta Annan (/ˈkoʊfi ˈænæn/; 8 April 1938 – 18 August 2018) was a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the UN were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the founder and chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, as well as chairman of The Elders, an international organization founded by Nelson Mandela.
Annan studied economics at Macalester College, international relations at the Graduate Institute Geneva, and management at MIT. Annan joined the UN in 1962, working for the World Health Organization’s Geneva office. He went on to work in several capacities at the UN Headquarters including serving as the Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping between March 1992 and December 1996. He was appointed the Secretary-General on 13 December 1996 by the Security Council, and later confirmed by the General Assembly, making him the first office holder to be elected from the UN staff itself. He was re-elected for a second term in 2001, and was succeeded as Secretary-General by Ban Ki-moon on 1 January 2007.
As the Secretary-General, Annan reformed the UN bureaucracy; worked to combat HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa; and launched the UN Global Compact. He was criticized for not expanding the Security Council and faced calls for resignation after an investigation into the Oil-for-Food Programme, but was largely exonerated of personal corruption. After the end of his term as UN Secretary-General, he founded the Kofi Annan Foundation in 2007 to work on international development. In 2012, Annan was the UN–Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, to help find a resolution to the ongoing conflict there. Annan quit after becoming frustrated with the UN’s lack of progress with regards to conflict resolution. In September 2016, Annan was appointed to lead a UN commission to investigate the Rohingya crisis.
Early years and education
Kofi Annan was born in the Kofandros section of Kumasi in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) on 8 April 1938. His twin sister Efua Atta, who died in 1991, shared the middle name Atta, which in the Akan language means ‘twin’. Annan and his sister were born into one of the country’s Ashanti and Fante aristocratic families; both of their grandfathers and their uncle were tribal chiefs.
In the Akan names tradition, some children are named according to the day of the week on which they were born, sometimes in relation to how many children precede them. Kofi in Akan is the name that corresponds with Friday. Annan said that his surname rhymes with “cannon” in English.
From 1954 to 1957, Annan attended the elite Mfantsipim school, a Methodist boarding school in Cape Coast founded in the 1870s. Annan said that the school taught him that “suffering anywhere, concerns people everywhere”. In 1957, the year Annan graduated from Mfantsipim, the Gold Coast gained independence from the UK and began using the name “Ghana”.
In 1958, Annan began studying economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology of Ghana. He received a Ford Foundation grant, enabling him to complete his undergraduate studies in economics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States, in 1961. Annan then completed a diplôme d’études approfondies DEA degree in International Relations at The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1961–62. After some years of work experience, he studied at the MIT Sloan School of Management (1971–72) in the Sloan Fellows program and earned a master’s degree in management.
Annan was fluent in English, French, Akan, and some Kru languages as well as other African languages.
In 1962, Kofi Annan started working as a budget officer for the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations (UN). From 1974 to 1976, he worked as a manager of the state-owned Ghana Tourist Development Company in Accra. In 1980 he became the head of personnel for the office of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. In 1983 he became the director of administrative management services of the UN Secretariat in New York. In 1987, Annan was appointed as an Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management and Security Coordinator for the UN system. In 1990, he became Assistant Secretary-General for Program Planning, Budget and Finance, and Control.
When Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali established the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in 1992, Annan was appointed to the new department as Deputy to then Under-Secretary-General Marrack Goulding. Annan was subsequently appointed in March 1993 as Under-Secretary-General of that department. On 29 August 1995, while Boutros-Ghali was unreachable on an airplane, Annan instructed United Nations officials to “relinquish for a limited period of time their authority to veto air strikes in Bosnia.” This move allowed NATO forces to conduct Operation Deliberate Force and made him a favorite of the United States. According to Richard Holbrooke, Annan’s “gutsy performance” convinced the United States that he would be a good replacement for Boutros-Ghali.
He was appointed a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia, serving from November 1995 to March 1996.
In 2003, retired Canadian General Roméo Dallaire, who was force commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, claimed that Annan was overly passive in his response to the imminent genocide. In his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (2003), Dallaire asserted that Annan held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict, and from providing more logistical and material support. Dallaire claimed that Annan failed to provide responses to his repeated faxes asking for access to a weapons depository; such weapons could have helped Dallaire defend the endangered Tutsis. In 2004, ten years after the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed, Annan said, “I could and should have done more to sound the alarm and rally support.”
In his book Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, Annan again argued that the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations could have made better use of the media to raise awareness of the violence in Rwanda and put pressure on governments to provide the troops necessary for an intervention. Annan explained that the events in Somalia and the collapse of the UNOSOM II mission fostered a hesitation among UN Member states to approve robust peacekeeping operations. As a result, when the UNAMIR mission was approved just days after the battle, the resulting force lacked the troop levels, resources and mandate to operate effectively.
Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997–2006)
In 1996, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali ran unopposed for a second term. Although he won 14 of the 15 votes on the Security Council, he was vetoed by the United States. After four deadlocked meetings of the Security Council, Boutros-Ghali suspended his candidacy, becoming the only Secretary-General ever to be denied a second term. Annan was the leading candidate to replace him, beating Amara Essy by one vote in the first round. However, France vetoed Annan four times before finally abstaining. The UN Security Council recommended Annan on 13 December 1996. Confirmed four days later by the vote of the General Assembly, he started his first term as Secretary-General on 1 January 1997.
Due to Boutros-Ghali’s overthrow, a second Annan term would give Africa the office of Secretary-General for three consecutive terms. In 2001, the Asia-Pacific Group agreed to support Annan for a second term in return for the African Group’s support for an Asian Secretary-General in the 2006 selection. The Security Council recommended Annan for a second term on 27 June 2001, and the General Assembly approved his reappointment on 29 June 2001.
Recommendations for UN reform
Soon after taking office in 1997, Annan released two reports on management reform. On 17 March 1997, the report Management and Organisational Measures (A/51/829) introduced new management mechanisms through the establishment of a cabinet-style body to assist him and be grouping the UN’s activities in accordance with four core missions. A comprehensive reform agenda was issued on 14 July 1997 entitled Renewing the United Nations: A Programme for Reform (A/51/950). Key proposals included the introduction of strategic management to strengthen unity of purpose, the establishment of the position of Deputy Secretary-General, a 10-percent reduction in posts, a reduction in administrative costs, the consolidation of the UN at the country level, and reaching out to civil society and the private sector as partners. Annan also proposed to hold a Millennium Summit in 2000.
After years of research, Annan presented a progress report, In Larger Freedom, to the UN General Assembly, on 21 March 2005. Annan recommended Security Council expansion and a host of other UN reforms.
On 31 January 2006, Annan outlined his vision for a comprehensive and extensive reform of the UN in a policy speech to the United Nations Association UK. The speech, delivered at Central Hall, Westminster, also marked the 60th Anniversary of the first meetings of the General Assembly and Security Council.
On 7 March 2006, he presented to the General Assembly his proposals for a fundamental overhaul of the United Nations Secretariat. The reform report is entitled Investing in the United Nations, For a Stronger Organization Worldwide.
On 30 March 2006, he presented to the General Assembly his analysis and recommendations for updating the entire work programme of the United Nations Secretariat. The reform report is entitled: Mandating and Delivering: Analysis and Recommendations to Facilitate the Review of Mandates.
Regarding the UN Human Rights Council, Annan said “declining credibility” had “cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system. Unless we re-make our human rights machinery, we may be unable to renew public confidence in the United Nations itself.” However, he did believe that, despite its flaws, the council could do good.
In March 2000, Annan appointed the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations to assess the shortcomings of the then existing system and to make specific and realistic recommendations for change. The panel was composed of individuals experienced in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace-building. The report it produced, which became known as the Brahimi Report, after Chair of the Panel Lakhdar Brahimi, called for:
- renewed political commitment on the part of Member States;
- significant institutional change;
- increased financial support.
The Panel further noted that in order to be effective, UN peacekeeping operations must be properly resourced and equipped, and operate under clear, credible and achievable mandates. In a letter transmitting the report to the General Assembly and Security Council, Annan stated that the Panel’s recommendations were essential to make the United Nations truly credible as a force for peace. Later that same year, the Security Council adopted several provisions relating to peacekeeping following the report, in Resolution 1327.
Millennium Development Goals
In 2000, Annan issued a report entitled: “We the peoples: the role of the United Nations in the 21st century”. The report called for member states to “put people at the centre of everything we do. No calling is more noble, and no responsibility greater, than that of enabling men, women and children, in cities and villages around the world, to make their lives better”.
In the final chapter of the report, Annan called to “free our fellow men and women from the abject and dehumanizing poverty in which more than 1 billion of them are currently confined”.
At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, national leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration, which was subsequently implemented by the United Nations Secretariat as the Millennium Development Goals in 2001.
United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS)
Within the “We the Peoples” document, Annan suggested the establishment of a United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS), a consortium of high-tech volunteer corps, including NetCorps Canada and Net Corps America, which United Nations Volunteers would co-ordinate. In the Report of the high-level panel of experts on information and communication technology (22 May 2000) suggesting a UN ICT Task Force, the panel welcomed the establishment of UNITeS, and made suggestions on its configuration and implementation strategy, including that ICT4D volunteering opportunities make mobilizing “national human resources” (local ICT experts) within developing countries a priority, for both men and women. The initiative was launched at the United Nations Volunteers and was active from February 2001 to February 2005. Initiative staff and volunteers participated in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva in December 2003.
The United Nations Global Compact
In an address to The World Economic Forum on 31 January 1999, Secretary-General Annan argued that the “goals of the United Nations and those of business can, indeed, be mutually supportive” and proposed that the private sector and the United Nations initiate “a global compact of shared values and principles, which will give a human face to the global market”.
On 26 July 2000, the United Nations Global Compact was officially launched at UN headquarters in New York. It is a principle-based framework for businesses which aims to “Catalyse actions in support of broader UN goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”. The Compact established ten core principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption, and under the Compact, companies commit to the ten principles and are brought together with UN agencies, labour groups and civil society to effectively implement them.
Establishment of The Global Fund
Towards the end of the 1990s, increased awareness of the destructive potential of epidemics such as HIV/AIDS pushed public health issues to the top of the global development agenda. In April 2001, Annan issued a five-point “Call to Action” to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Stating it was a “personal priority”, Annan proposed the establishment of a Global AIDS and Health Fund, “dedicated to the battle against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases” to stimulate the increased international spending needed to help developing countries confront the HIV/AIDS crisis. In June of that year, the General Assembly of the United Nations committed to the creation of such a fund during a special session on AIDS, and the permanent secretariat of the Global Fund was subsequently established in January 2002.
Responsibility to Protect
Following the failure of Annan and the International Community to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda and in Srebrenica, Annan asked whether the international community had an obligation in such situations to intervene to protect civilian populations. In a speech to the General Assembly on 20 September 1999 “to address the prospects for human security and intervention in the next century,” Annan argued that individual sovereignty—the protections afforded by the Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the UN—was being strengthened, while the notion of state sovereignty was being redefined by globalization and international co-operation. As a result, the UN and its member states had to consider a willingness to act to prevent conflict and civilian suffering, a dilemma between “two concepts of sovereignty” that Annan also presented in a preceding article in The Economist, on 16 September 1999.
In September 2001 the Canadian government established an ad-hoc committee to address this balance between state sovereignty and humanitarian intervention. The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty published its final report in 2001, which focused on not on the right of states to intervene but a responsibility to protect populations at risk. The report moved beyond the question of military intervention, arguing that a range of diplomatic and humanitarian actions could also be utilized to protect civilian populations.
In 2005, Annan included the doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect” in his report Larger Freedom. When that report was endorsed by the UN General Assembly, it amounted to the first formal endorsement by UN Member States of the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect.
In the years after 1998 when UNSCOM was expelled by the government of Saddam Hussein and during the Iraq disarmament crisis, in which the United States blamed UNSCOM and former IAEA director Hans Blix for failing to properly disarm Iraq, former UNSCOM chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter blamed Annan for being slow and ineffective in enforcing Security Council resolutions on Iraq and was overtly submissive to the demands of the Clinton administration for regime removal and inspection of sites, often Presidential palaces, that were not mandated in any resolution and were of questionable intelligence value, severely hampering UNSCOM’s ability to co-operate with the Iraqi government and contributed to their expulsion from the country. Ritter also claimed that Annan regularly interfered with the work of the inspectors and diluted the chain of command by trying to micromanage all of the activities of UNSCOM, which caused intelligence processing (and the resulting inspections) to be backed up and caused confusion with the Iraqis as to who was in charge and as a result, they generally refused to take orders from Ritter or Rolf Ekéus without explicit approval from Annan, which could have taken days, if not weeks. He later believed that Annan was oblivious to the fact the Iraqis took advantage of this in order to delay inspections. He claimed that on one occasion, Annan refused to implement a no-notice inspection of the SSO headquarters and instead tried to negotiate access, but the negotiation ended up taking nearly six weeks, giving the Iraqis more than enough time to clean out the site.
During the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Annan called on the United States and the United Kingdom not to invade without the support of the United Nations. In a September 2004 interview on the BBC, when questioned about the legal authority for the invasion, Annan said he believed it was not in conformity with the UN charter and was illegal.
Other diplomatic activities
In 1998, Annan was deeply involved in supporting the transition from military to civilian rule in Nigeria. The following year, he supported the efforts of East Timor to secure independence from Indonesia. In 2000, he was responsible for certifying Israel ‘s withdrawal from Lebanon, and in 2006, he led talks in New York between the presidents of Cameroon and Nigeria which led to a settlement of the dispute between the two countries over the Bakassi peninsula.
Annan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad disagreed sharply on Iran’s nuclear program, on an Iranian exhibition of cartoons mocking the Holocaust, and on the then upcoming International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust, an Iranian Holocaust denial conference in 2006. During a visit to Iran instigated by continued Iranian uranium enrichment, Annan said “I think the tragedy of the Holocaust is an undeniable historical fact and we should really accept that fact and teach people what happened in World War II and ensure it is never repeated.”
Annan supported sending a UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur, Sudan. He worked with the government of Sudan to accept a transfer of power from the African Union peacekeeping mission to a UN one. Annan also worked with several Arab and Muslim countries on women’s rights and other topics.
Beginning in 1998, Annan convened an annual UN “Security Council Retreat” with the 15 States’ representatives of the Council. It was held at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) Conference Center at the Rockefeller family estate in Pocantico Hills, New York, and was sponsored by both the RBF and the UN.
Lubbers sexual-harassment investigation
In June 2004, Annan was given a copy of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report on the complaint brought by four female workers against Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, for sexual harassment, abuse of authority, and retaliation. The report also reviewed a long-serving staff member’s allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Werner Blatter, Director of UNHCR Personnel. The investigation found Lubbers guilty of sexual harassment; no mention was made publicly of the other charge against a senior official, or two subsequent complaints filed later that year. In the course of the official investigation, Lubbers wrote a letter which some considered was a threat to the female worker who had brought the charges. On 15 July 2004, Annan cleared Lubbers of the accusations, saying they were not substantial enough legally. The internal UN-OIOS report on Lubbers was leaked, and sections accompanied by an article by Kate Holt were published in a British newspaper. In February 2005, Lubbers resigned as head of the UN refugee agency, saying that he wanted to relieve political pressure on Annan.
In December 2004, reports surfaced that the Secretary-General’s son Kojo Annan received payments from the Swiss company Cotecna Inspection SA, which had won a lucrative contract under the UN Oil-for-Food Programme. Kofi Annan called for an investigation to look into the allegations. On 11 November 2005, The Sunday Times agreed to apologise and pay a substantial sum in damages to Kojo Annan, accepting that the allegations were untrue.
Annan appointed the Independent Inquiry Committee, which was led by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, then the director of the United Nations Association of the US. In his first interview with the Inquiry Committee, Annan denied having had a meeting with Cotecna. Later in the inquiry, he recalled that he had met with Cotecna’s chief executive Elie-Georges Massey twice. In a final report issued on 27 October, the committee found insufficient evidence to indict Kofi Annan on any illegal actions, but did find fault with Benon Sevan, an Armenian-Cypriot national who had worked for the UN for about 40 years. Appointed by Annan to the Oil-For-Food role, Sevan repeatedly asked Iraqis for allocations of oil to the African Middle East Petroleum Company. Sevan’s behavior was “ethically improper”, Volcker said to reporters. Sevan repeatedly denied the charges and argued that he was being made a “scapegoat”. The Volcker report was highly critical of the UN management structure and the Security Council oversight. It strongly recommended a new position be established of Chief Operating Officer (COO), to handle the fiscal and administrative responsibilities then under the Secretary-General’s office. The report listed the companies, both Western and Middle Eastern, which had benefited illegally from the program.
Nobel Peace Prize
In 2001, its centennial year, the Nobel Committee decided that the Peace Prize was to be divided between the UN and Annan. They were awarded the Peace Prize “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world,” having revitalized the UN and for having given priority to human rights. The Nobel Committee also recognized his commitment to the struggle to containing the spread of HIV in Africa and his declared opposition to international terrorism.
Relations between the United States and the United Nations
Annan defended his deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, who openly criticized the United States in a speech on 6 June 2006: “[T]he prevailing practice of seeking to use the UN almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics is simply not sustainable. You will lose the UN one way or another. […] [That] the US is constructively engaged with the UN […] is not well known or understood, in part because much of the public discourse that reaches the US heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.” Malloch later said his talk was a “sincere and constructive critique of U.S. policy toward the U.N. by a friend and admirer.”
The talk was unusual because it violated unofficial policy of not having top officials publicly criticize member nations. The interim U.S. ambassador John R. Bolton, appointed by President George W. Bush, was reported to have told Annan on the phone: “I’ve known you since 1989 and I’m telling you this is the worst mistake by a senior UN official that I have seen in that entire time.” Observers from other nations supported Malloch’s view that conservative politicians in the U.S. prevented many citizens from understanding the benefits of U.S. involvement in the UN.
On 19 September 2006, Annan gave a farewell address to world leaders gathered at the UN headquarters in New York, in anticipation of his retirement on 31 December. In the speech he outlined three major problems of “an unjust world economy, world disorder, and widespread contempt for human rights and the rule of law”, which he believed “have not resolved, but sharpened” during his time as Secretary-General. He also pointed to violence in Africa, and the Arab–Israeli conflict as two major issues warranting attention.
On 11 December 2006, in his final speech as Secretary-General, delivered at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, Annan recalled Truman’s leadership in the founding of the United Nations. He called for the United States to return to President Truman’s multilateralist foreign policies, and to follow Truman’s credo that “the responsibility of the great states is to serve and not dominate the peoples of the world”. He also said that the United States must maintain its commitment to human rights, “including in the struggle against terrorism.”
Online access to Kofi Annan’s archives
The United Nations Archives and Records Management Section (UNARMS) provides full text access to Kofi Annan’s declassified archives while he served as Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997-2006)
Search Kofi Annan’s Archives
After his service as UN Secretary-General, Annan took up residence in Geneva and worked in a leading capacity on various international humanitarian endeavors.
Kofi Annan Foundation
In 2007, Annan established the Kofi Annan Foundation, an independent, not-for-profit organization that works to promote better global governance and strengthen the capacities of people and countries to achieve a fairer, more peaceful world.
The organisation was founded on the principles that fair and peaceful societies rest on three pillars: Peace and Security, Sustainable Development, and Human Rights and the Rule of Law, and they have made it their mission to mobilise the leadership and the political resolve needed to tackle threats to these three pillars ranging from violent conflict to flawed elections and climate change, with the aim of achieving a fairer, more peaceful world.
The Foundation provides the analytical, communication and co-ordination capacities needed to ensure that these objectives are achieved. Annan’s contribution to peace worldwide is delivered through mediation, political mentoring, advocacy and advice. Through his engagement, Annan aimed to strengthen local and international conflict resolution capabilities. The Foundation provides the analytical and logistical support to facilitate this in co-operation with relevant local, regional and international actors. The Foundation works mainly through private diplomacy, where Annan provided informal counsel and participated in discreet diplomatic initiatives to avert or resolve crises by applying his experience and inspirational leadership. He was often asked to intercede in crises, sometimes as an impartial independent mediator, sometimes as a special envoy of the international community. In recent years he had provided such counsel to Burkina Faso, Kenya, Myanmar, Senegal, Iraq and Colombia.
Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process (KNDR)
Following the outbreak of violence during the 2007 Presidential elections in Kenya, the African Union established a Panel of Eminent African Personalities to assist in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The panel, headed by Annan, managed to convince the two principal parties to the conflict, President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), to participate in the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process (KNDR). Over the course of 41 days of negotiations, several agreements regarding taking actions to stop the violence and remedying its consequences were signed. On 28 February, President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga signed a coalition government agreement.
Joint Special Envoy for Syria
On 23 February 2012, Annan was appointed as the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, in an attempt to end the civil war taking place. He developed a six-point plan for peace:
- commit to work with the Envoy in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people, and, to this end, commit to appoint an empowered interlocutor when invited to do so by the Envoy;
- commit to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilise the country.
- To this end, the Syrian government should immediately cease troop movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centres, and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres.
- As these actions are being taken on the ground, the Syrian government should work with the Envoy to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism.
- Similar commitments would be sought by the Envoy from the opposition and all relevant elements to stop the fighting and work with him to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism;
- ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and to this end, as immediate steps, to accept and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause and to co-ordinate exact time and modalities of the daily pause through an efficient mechanism, including at local level;
- intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons, and persons involved in peaceful political activities, provide without delay through appropriate channels a list of all places in which such persons are being detained, immediately begin organizing access to such locations and through appropriate channels respond promptly to all written requests for information, access or release regarding such persons;
- ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them;
- respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.
On 2 August, he resigned as UN and Arab League joint special envoy to Syria, citing the intransigence of both the Assad government and the rebels, as well as the stalemate on the Security Council as preventing any peaceful resolution of the situation. Annan also stated that the lack of international unity and ineffective diplomacy among the world leaders had made the peaceful resolution in Syria an impossible task.
Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security
Annan served as the Chair of the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security. The Commission was launched in May 2011 as a joint initiative of the Kofi Annan Foundation and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. It comprised 12 eminent individuals from around the world, including Ernesto Zedillo, Martti Ahtisaari, Madeleine Albright and Amartya Sen, and aimed to highlight the importance of the integrity of elections to achieving a more secure, prosperous and stable world. The Commission released its final report: Democracy, a Strategy to Improve the Integrity of Elections Worldwide, in September 2012.
Rakhine Commission (Myanmar)
In September 2016, Annan was asked to lead the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State (in Myanmar) – an impoverished region beset by ethnic conflict and extreme sectarian violence, particularly by Myanmar’s Buddhist majority against the Rohingya Muslim minority, further targeted by government forces. The commission, widely known simply as the “Annan Commission”, was opposed by many Myanmar Buddhists as unwelcome interference in their relations with the Rohingya.
When the Annan commission released its final report, the week of 24 August 2017, with recommendations unpopular with all sides, violence exploded in the Rohingya conflict – the largest and bloodiest humanitarian disaster in the region in decades – driving most of the Rohingya from Myanmar. Annan attempted to engage the United Nations to resolve the matter, but failed.
Annan died a week before the first anniversary of the report, shortly after an announcement by a replacement commission that it would not “point fingers” at the guilty parties – leading to widespread concern that the new commission was just a sham to protect culpable Myanmar government officials and citizens from accountability.
In 2018, before Annan’s death, Myanmar’s civilian government, under the direction of State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, made a gesture of acceptance of the Annan commission’s recommendations by convening another board – the Advisory Board for the Committee for Implementation of the Recommendations on Rakhine State – ostensibly to implement the Annan commission’s proposed reforms, but never actually implemented them. Some of the international representatives resigned – notably the panel’s Secretary, Thailand’s former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai, and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson – decrying the “implementation” committee as ineffective, or a “whitewash.”
In March 2011, Annan became a member of the Advisory Board for Investcorp Bank B. S. C. Europe, an international private equity firm and sovereign wealth fund owned by the United Arab Emirates. He held the position until 2018.
Annan became member of the Global Advisory Board of Macro Advisory Partners LLP, Risk and strategic consulting firm based in London and New York, for business, finance and government decision-makers, with some operations related to Investcorp.
In addition to the above, Annan also became involved with several organizations with both global and African focuses, including the following:
- United Nations Foundation, member of the board of directors (2008–2018)
- University of Ghana, chancellor (2008–2018)
- School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University, global fellow (2009–2018)
- The Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University, fellow
- Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Li Ka Shing Professor (2009–2018)
- Global Centre for Pluralism, member of the board of directors (2010–2018)
- Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, chairman of the prize committee (2007–2018)
- Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), chairman (2007–2018)
- Global Humanitarian Forum, founder and president (2007–2018)
- Global Commission on Drug Policy, founding commissioner. The commission had declared in a 2011 report that the war on drugs was a failure. Annan believed that, since drug use represents a health risk, it should be regulated, comparing it to the regulation of tobacco which reduced smoking in many countries.
Annan served as Chair of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders who work together on peace and human rights issues. In November 2008, Annan and fellow Elders Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel attempted to travel to Zimbabwe to make a first-hand assessment of the humanitarian situation in the country. Refused entry, the Elders instead carried out their assessment from Johannesburg, where they met Zimbabwe- and South Africa-based leaders from politics, business, international organisations, and civil society. In May 2011, following months of political violence in Côte d’Ivoire, Annan travelled to the country with Elders Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson to encourage national reconciliation. On 16 October 2014, Annan attended the One Young World Summit in Dublin. During a session with fellow Elder Mary Robinson, Annan encouraged 1,300 young leaders from 191 countries to lead on intergenerational issues such as climate change and the need for action to take place now, not tomorrow.
“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 chaired the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. As Chair, he facilitates coalition building to leverage and broker knowledge, in addition to convening decision-makers to influence policy and create lasting change in Africa. Every year, the Panel releases a report, the Africa Progress Report, which outlines an issue of immediate importance to the continent and suggests a set of associated policies. In 2014, the Africa Progress Report highlighted the potential of African fisheries, agriculture, and forests to drive economic development. The 2015 report explores the role of climate change and the potential of renewable energy investments in determining Africa’s economic future.
On 4 September 2012, Annan with Nader Mousavizadeh wrote a memoir, Interventions: A Life in War and Peace. Published by Penguin Press, the book has been described as a “personal biography of global statecraft”.
In 1965, Kofi Annan married Titi Alakija, a Nigerian woman from an aristocratic family. Several years later they had a daughter, Ama, and later a son, Kojo. The couple separated in the late 1970s, and divorced in 1983. In 1984, Annan married Nane Annan, a Swedish lawyer at the UN and a maternal half-niece of diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. She has a daughter, Nina, from a previous marriage. His brother, Kobina Annan served as Ghana’s ambassador to Morocco.
Death and state funeral
Annan died on the morning of 18 August 2018 in Bern, Switzerland, at the age of 80 after a short illness. António Guterres, the current UN Secretary-General, said that “Kofi Annan was a champion for peace and a guiding force for good.” The body of Kofi Annan was returned to his native Ghana from Geneva in a brief and solemn ceremony at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, on 10 September 2018. His coffin, draped in the blue UN flag, was accompanied by his widow Nane Annan, his children and senior diplomats from the international organisation.
On 13 September 2018, a state funeral was held for Annan in Ghana at the Accra International Conference Centre. The ceremony was attended by several political leaders from across Africa as well as Ghanaian traditional rulers, European royalty and dignitaries from the international community, including the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Prior to the funeral service, his body lay in state in the foyer of the same venue, from 11–12 September 2018. A private burial followed the funeral service at the new Military Cemetery at Burma Camp, with full military honours – the sounding of the Last Post by army buglers and a 17-gun salute.
Memorials and legacy
The United Nations Postal Administration released a new stamp in memory of Kofi Annan on 31 May 2019. Annan’s portrait on the stamp was designed by artist Martin Mörck.