Kofi Annan of Ghana is the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. The first Secretary-General to be elected from the ranks of United Nations staff, he began his term on 1 January 1997.
Mr. Annan’s priorities as Secretary-General have been to revitalize the United Nations through a comprehensive programme of reform; to strengthen the Organization’s traditional work in the areas of development and the maintenance of international peace and security; to encourage and advocate human rights, the rule of law and the universal values of equality, tolerance and human dignity found in the United Nations Charter; and to restore public confidence in the Organization by reaching out to new partners and, in his words, by “bringing the United Nations closer to the people”.
Mr. Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana, on 8 April 1938. He studied at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi and completed his undergraduate work in economics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A., in 1961. From 1961 to 1962, he undertook graduate studies in economics at the Institut universitaire des hautes études internationales in Geneva. As a 1971-1972 Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Annan received a Master of Science degree in management.
Mr. Annan joined the United Nations system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva. Since then he has served with the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa; the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF II) in Ismailia; the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva; and, at UN Headquarters in New York, as Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management and Security Coordinator for the UN System (1987-1990) and Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Budget and Finance, and Controller (1990-1992). In 1990, following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, Mr. Annan was asked by the Secretary-General, as a special assignment, to facilitate the repatriation of more than 900 international staff and the release of Western hostages in Iraq. He subsequently led the first United Nations team negotiating with Iraq on the sale of oil to fund purchases of humanitarian aid.
Before being appointed Secretary-General, Mr. Annan served as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (March 1993 – February 1994) and then as Under-Secretary-General (February 1994 – October 1995; April 1996 – December 1996). His tenure as Under Secretary-General coincided with unprecedented growth in the size and scope of United Nations peacekeeping operations, with a total deployment, at its peak in 1995, of almost 70,000 military and civilian personnel from 77 countries. From November 1995 to March 1996, following the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Annan served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia, overseeing the transition in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to the multinational Implementation Force (IFOR) led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
As Secretary-General, Mr. Annan’s first major initiative was his plan for reform, “Renewing the United Nations”, which was presented to the Member States in July 1997 and has been pursued ever since with an emphasis on improving coherence and coordination. His April 1998 report to the Security Council on “The Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa” was among several efforts to maintain the international community’s commitment to Africa, the most disadvantaged of the world’s regions. He has used his good offices in several delicate political situations. These included an attempt in 1998 to gain Iraq’s compliance with Security Council resolutions; a mission in 1998 to help promote the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria; an agreement in 1999 to resolve a stalemate between Libya and the Security Council over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing; diplomacy in 1999 to forge an international response to violence in East Timor; and efforts in 2000 to certify Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, and then to try and halt the violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
He has also sought to improve the status of women in the Secretariat and to build closer partnerships with civil society, the private sector and other non-State actors whose strengths complement those of the United Nations; in particular, he has called for a “Global Compact” involving leaders of the world business community as well as labour and civil society organizations, aimed at enabling all the world’s people to share the benefits of globalization and embedding the global market in values and practices that are fundamental to meeting socio-economic needs. In April 2000, he issued a Millennium Report, entitled “We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century”, calling on Member States to commit themselves to an action plan for ending poverty and inequality, improving education, reducing HIV/AIDS, safeguarding the environment and protecting peoples from deadly conflict and violence. The Report formed the basis of the Millennium Declaration adopted by Heads of State and Government at the Millennium Summit, held at UN Headquarters in September 2000.
The Secretary-General is fluent in English, French and several African languages. He is married to Nane Annan, of Sweden, a lawyer who is now an artist. They have three children.