Kofi Atta Annan, a diplomat from the West African country of Ghana, was the first to emerge from the ranks of United Nations (UN) staff to serve as the Secretary-General of the UN. He served as the seventh UN Secretary-General from 1997 to 2006.
Kofi Atta Annan was born in 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’.
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 1958, Annan began studying economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, (now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology) in 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.
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.
He was appointed a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia, serving from November 1995 to March 1996.
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.
The Security Council recommended Annan for a second term on 27 June 2001, and the General Assembly approved his reappointment on 29 June 2001. He was succeeded as Secretary-General by Ban Ki-moon on 1 January 2007.
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. 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.
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.” 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.
Personal Life & Legacy
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.
Annan died on the morning of 18 August 2018 in Bern, Switzerland, at the age of 80 after a short illness.