It is unthinkable that one will list illustrious sons and daughters of Ghana, whose influence have been felt globally without the name, Kofi A. Annan leading the order. The seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, served two terms from 1 January, 1997 to 2006. His appointment to the UN top job made him the first black African to hold that post and the first to emerge from the ranks of the organisation’s staff.
As Secretary-General he made it a self-imposed obligation to take the UN through a comprehensive programme of reform; strengthening the organization’s traditional work in the areas of development and the maintenance of international peace and security. Also by advocating human rights, the rule of law and the universal values of equality, tolerance and human dignity; restoring public confidence in the organization by reaching out to new partners and, in his words, by “bringing the United Nations closer to the people”.
Kofi Annan’s administration faced very trying times with respect to global peace. It was a period where there was a surge in domestic conflicts in many nation and heightened international tensions. The 11 September, 2001 terror attacks in the United States only epitomised the enormity of the task he had to face with global conflict management. The UN subsequently adopted the first ever counter-terrorism strategy.
Born in Kumasi, Ghana, on 8 April, 1938, Mr Annan studied at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana and completed his undergraduate work in economics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1961. In 1961-1962, he undertook graduate studies at the Institute of International Affairs in Geneva, and in 1972 earned a Master of Science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. He has also received numerous honorary degrees and many other national and international prizes, medals and honours.
The 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace winner’s first appointment to the UN was 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 (1987-1990), budget, finance (1990-1992) and staff security. He served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia (1995-1996). He was Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping at a time when nearly 70,000 military and civilian personnel were deployed in UN operations around the world.
His globally appreciated feats as UN Boss include the “Global Compact” (1999), an initiative to encourage businesses to respect standards relating to the environment, employment laws and human rights. Mr Annan likewise played a central role in the creation of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
In April, 2000, he issued a report on the UN’s role in the 21st century, outlining actions needed to end poverty and inequality, improve education, cut HIV/AIDS, safeguard the environment and protect people from violence. The report formed the basis of the Millennium Declarations adopted by national leaders attending the UN Millennium Summit that September. He oversaw the establishment of the Peace-building Commission and the Human Rights Council of the UN.
Mr Annan undertook wide-ranging diplomatic initiatives. In 1998, he helped to ease the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria. Also that year, he was in Iraq in an effort to resolve an impasse between that country and the Security Council over compliance with resolutions involving weapons. He certified Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. In 2006, he mediated a settlement of the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi peninsula through the implementation of the judgement of the International Court of Justice.
Back home his achievements have been appreciated in varied ways. The Asanteman in August 2002 conferred the title Busumuru on Mr Kofi Annan to signify his might as the head of the world body and also his contribution to international peace and understanding – Busumuru is one of the swords attached to the Golden Stool of Asante and customarily used only by the Asantehene. The State also honoured him as a Companion of the Order of the Star of Ghana. His alma mater conferred on him an Honorary Doctor of Science, 24 August 1998.
Established in 1998, there couldn’t have been a more appropriate name for the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, considering Mr Annan’s immense contribution to global peace and conflict resolution. The center provides training and research in peacekeeping and peace-operations.
The Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT also stands, bearing his name. The Centre which houses West Africa’s first supercomputer is Ghana’s first Advanced Information Technology Institute, stimulating the growth of the ICT Sector in ECOWAS and facilitating research in the sector.
Retiring from active duty at the UN, Kofi Annan has been championing the fight for policies in African States that serve the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable. The Kofi Annan Foundation has as its mission statement: to promote better global governance and strengthen the capacities of people and countries to achieve a fairer, more secure world through, (i) Peace and Security; (ii) Sustainable Development; and (iii) Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
In 2008, Mr Annan led the African Union’s Panel of Eminent African Personalities to help find a peaceful resolution to the post-election violence in Kenya. His foundation also promotes food and nutrition security by empowering small holder farmers in Africa, and encouraging investment throughout the agricultural value chain.
He is a member of the Elders, an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. Other group members include, Nelson Mandela himself, Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson and Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Elders are involved in human rights activism, promoting equality for women and girls and preaching for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Their work stretches beyond Africa.
Mr Annan serves as the Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) an organisation concerned with pursuing an integrated programs in seeds, soils, market access, policy and partnerships and innovative finance work to trigger comprehensive changes across the agricultural system. The organisation also aims at strengthening agricultural education and extension, address the issue of efficient water management, and strive to involve train youth in agriculture.
With an annual budget of US$400 million, Mr Annan and the other Board members of AGRA seek to reduce food insecurity by 50 per cent in at least 20 countries in Africa and put at least 15 countries on track for attaining and sustaining a uniquely African Green Revolution: one which supports smallholder farmers, protects the environment, and helps farmers adapt to climate change.
Kofi Annan serves as chair of the Africa Progress Panel; President of the Global Humanitarian Forum; serves on the Prize Committee of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and many other organisations.
He is fluent in English, French and several African languages. He has three children with his wife, Nane, a Swedish lawyer and painter who has a great interest in understanding the work of the United Nations in the field.