Kofi A. Annan
Former United Nations Secretary-General

Kofi A. Annan participated in the World Leader’s Forum event, Climate Change: The Leadership Challenge of our Age, in September 2009.

Kofi A. Annan was the seventh secretary-general of the United Nations, serving two terms from January 1, 1997, to December 31, 2006, and was the first to emerge from the ranks of United Nations staff. In 2001 Kofi Annan and the United Nations were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace with the citation praising his leadership for "bringing new life to the organization."

Since leaving the United Nations (UN), Kofi Annan has continued to press for better policies to meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly in Africa. He has also continued to use his experience to mediate and resolve conflict. In Kenya in early 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 addition to his work with the Kofi Annan Foundation, Mr. Annan serves as the chairman of the Africa Progress Panel, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Prize Committee of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and Concordia 21, and as president of the Global Humanitarian Forum. Mr. Annan currently serves as the chancellor of the University of Ghana and is an active member of the Elders. He is also a board member, patron or honorary member of a number of organizations, including the UN Foundation, the World Economic Forum, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Club of Madrid, and the World Organisation Against Torture.

One of Kofi Annan's main priorities as secretary-general was a comprehensive program of reform aimed at revitalizing the United Nations and making the international system more effective.  He was a constant advocate for human rights, the rule of law, the Millennium Development Goals, and Africa, and sought to bring the organization closer to the global public by forging ties with civil society, the private sector, and other partners.

At Mr. Annan's initiative, UN peacekeeping was strengthened in ways that enabled the United Nations to cope with a rapid rise in the number of operations and personnel. It was also at Mr. Annan's urging that, in 2005, member states established two new intergovernmental bodies: the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council. Mr Annan likewise played a central role in the creation of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the adoption of the UN's first-ever counter-terrorism strategy, and the acceptance by member states of the "responsibility to protect" people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.  His "Global Compact" initiative, launched in 1999, has become the world's largest effort to promote corporate social responsibility.

Mr. Annan undertook wide-ranging diplomatic initiatives. In 1998 he helped to ease the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria.  Also that year, he visited Iraq in an effort to resolve an impasse between that country and the Security Council over compliance with resolutions involving weapons inspections and other matters - an effort that helped to avoid an outbreak of hostilities, which was imminent at that time. In 1999 he was deeply involved in the process by which Timor-Leste gained independence from Indonesia.  He was responsible for certifying Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and in 2006 his efforts contributed to securing a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah. Also in 2006, he mediated a settlement of the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi peninsula through implementation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice. His efforts to strengthen the Organization's management, coherence and accountability involved major investments in training and technology, the introduction of a new whistleblower policy and financial disclosure requirements and steps aimed at improving co-ordination at the country level.

Mr. Annan joined the UN system in 1962 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 in Ismailia, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees in Geneva and in various senior posts in New York dealing with human resources, budget, finance and staff security. Immediately before becoming secretary-general, he was under-secretary-general for peacekeeping. Mr. Annan also served as special representative of the secretary-general to the former Yugoslavia from 1995 to 1996, and facilitated the repatriation from Iraq of more than 900 international staff and other non-Iraqi nationals in 1990.

Kofi Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana on April 8, 1938. He is married to Nane and between them they have three children.

Participated In

Gabriel Silver Memorial Lecture with Kofi Annan

Date: September 23, 2009 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Location: Rotunda, Low Memorial Library
Description: This program features a keynote address by Kofi Annan, Columbia Global Fellow and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, followed by a question and answer session with the audience.