Kofi Atta Annan, born in 1938 is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1 January 1997 to 1 January 2007. Annan and the United Nations were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.
Annan has said that the school taught him “that suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere”.
In 1958, Annan began studying for a degree in economics, received a Ford Foundation grant, enabling him to complete his undergraduate studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States, in 1961. Annan then did a DEA degree in International Relations at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1961–62, later attending the MIT Sloan School of Management (1971–72) Sloan Fellows program and receiving a Master of Science (M.S.) degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
In 1962, Annan started working as a Budget Officer for the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations. In the 70s he worked as the Director of Tourism in Ghana. Annan then returned to work for the United Nations as an Assistant Secretary-General in three consecutive positions: Human Resources Management and Security Coordinator (1987-1990); Program Planning, Budget and Finance, and Controller, (1990 to 1992); and Peacekeeping Operations, (1993 – 1994).
On 13 December 1996, Annan was recommended by the United Nations Security Council to replace the previous Secretary-General, dr. Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, whose second term faced the veto of the United States. He was confirmed four days later by the vote of the General Assembly, and he started his first term as Secretary-General on 1 January 1997.
In April 2001, he issued a five-point “Call to Action” to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. As Secretary-General, Annan saw this pandemic as a “personal priority” and proposed the establishment of a Global AIDS and Health Fund in an attempt to stimulate the increased spending needed to help developing countries confront the HIV/AIDS crisis.
On 10 December 2001, Annan and the United Nations were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world”.
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, Annan was asked about the legal authority for the invasion, and responded, “from our point of view, from the charter point of view it was illegal.”
Annan supported sending a UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur, Sudan, and 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.
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, Kofi 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 UN General Assembly and UN 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“.
Upon his return to Ghana, Annan was immediately suggested as a candidate to become the country’s next head of state. He has become involved with several organizations with both global and African focuses. In 2007, Annan was named chairman of the prize committee for the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, was chosen to lead the new formation of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), became a member of the Global Elders, was appointed president of the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, and was selected for the MacArthur Foundation Award for International Justice.
In the beginning of 2008, as head of the Panel of Eminent African Personalities, Annan participated in the negotiations to end the civil unrest in Kenya. He threatened to leave the negotiations as mediator if a quick decision was not made.
On 26 February 2008 he suspended talks to end Kenya’s violent post-election crisis. On 28 February, Annan managed to have President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga sign a coalition government agreement and was widely lauded by many Kenyans for this landmark achievement. That was the best deal achieved then under the mediation efforts.
Annan currently serves on the board of directors of the United Nations Foundation, a public charity created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes. The UN Foundation builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the UN.
Annan is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), an independent authority on Africa launched in April 2007 to focus world leaders’ attention on delivering their commitments to the continent. The Panel launched a major report in London on Monday 16 June 2008 entitled Africa’s Development: Promises and Prospects.
Kofi Annan was appointed the Chancellor of the University of Ghana in 2008.