By Selina Böttcher
Kumasi – a dazzling city in the heart of Ghana, known for its unique culture and huge market. And also the birth place of Kofi Annan, seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations.
His term of office was from 1997 to 2006. Twelve years later, Mr. Annan died in Bern, Switzerland at the age of 80. While he served, the Ghanaian established a comprehensive program of reform, a “quiet revolution”, to revitalize the UN and make the international system more effective. The program included a reduction of bureaucracy and the operating budget, as well as an audit of the deployments of UN soldiers he had led for years.
He supported and stood up for human rights, the rule of law, the Millennium Development Goals and Africa. His goal was also to bring the Organization closer to the general public, which he encouraged by making connections with the people, the private sector and other partners. “The people” were supposed to be in the center of the UN in his eyes.
Annan played a significant role in the creation of a Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the UN’s first-ever counter-terrorism strategy.
His re-election in 2001 sent a signal: With his Egyptian predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali, this was the third African term in a row. According to the UN regulations, it would have been an Asian country’s turn to fill the job, but none of the Asian countries opposed the re-election.
Shortly after the election, Kofi Annan received a Nobel Peace Prize together with the United Nations, “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world”. In his acceptance speech, Annan said: “Peace must be sought, above all, because it is the condition for every member of the human family to live a life of dignity and security”.
After his term of eight years, Annan continued to advocate the things he stood for. He was the chairman of “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa”, an initiative that focuses on strengthening Africa’s agriculture. He also co-founded “Global Elders”, a group of extraordinary personalities that aim to share their experience and influence to help solve global issues, and was president of the “Global Humanitarian Forum” in Genf.
An important phrase coined by Kofi Annan during his tenure: “We have the means and the capacity to deal with our problems, if only we can find the political will.”