Kofi Annan

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Kofi Atta Annan
Kofi Annan

7th Secretary-General of the United Nations
In office
January 1, 1997 –  December 31, 2006
Preceded by Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Succeeded by Ban Ki-moon

Born April 8, 1938
Kumasi, Ghana
Spouse Titi Alakija (div.)
Nane Maria Annan

Kofi Atta Annan (born April 8, 1938) is a Ghanaian diplomat and the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Early years and family

Kofi Annan ( IPA: /kofi ænən/) was born to Victoria and Henry Reginald Annan in the Kofandros section of Kumasi, Ghana. He is a twin, an occurrence that is regarded as special in Ghanaian culture. His twin sister Efua Atta, who died in 1991, shares the middle name 'Atta', which in Fante means 'twin'. As with most Akan names, his first name indicates the day of the week he was born: Kofi denotes a boy born on a Friday. The name Annan can indicate that a child was the fourth in the family, but in Kofi's family at some time in the past it became a family name, and Kofi inherited it from his parents. Annan's surname is frequently mispronounced as /ə nonˈ/ or /a nonˈ/. In an interview on National Public Radio, shortly after taking office as U.N. Secretary General, he was asked how to say his name, and explained that the correct pronunciation rhymes with "cannon"; thus, /ænən/.

Annan's family was part of the country's elite; both of his grandfathers and his uncle were tribal chiefs. His father was half Asante and half Fante; his mother was Fante. Annan's father worked for a long period as an export manager for the Lever Brothers cocoa company.

Annan is married to Nane Maria Annan, a Swedish lawyer and artist who is the half-niece of Raoul Wallenberg. He has two children, Kojo and Ama, from his previous marriage to Nigerian Titi Alakija. He and Alakija divorced in the late 1970s. Nane Annan also has one child, Nina Cronstedt de Groot, from a previous marriage.


From 1954 to 1957, Annan attended the elite Mfantsipim school, a Methodist boarding school in Cape Coast founded in the 1870s. Annan has said that the school taught him "that suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere". In 1957, the year Annan graduated from Mfantsipim, Ghana became the first British colony in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence.

In 1958, Annan began studying for a degree in economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology of Ghana. He 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 studied at the Graduate Institute of International Studies (Institut universitaire des hautes études internationales IUHEI) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1961–62, later attending the MIT Sloan School of Management (1971–72) Sloan Fellows programme and receiving a Master of Science (M.S.) degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Annan is fluent in English, French, Kru, other dialects of Akan, and other African languages.

Early career

In 1962, Annan started working as a Budget Officer for the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations. From 1974 to 1976, Annan worked as the Director of Tourism in Ghana.

Following that, he returned to work for the United Nations as an Assistant Secretary-General in three consecutive positions: Human Resources Management and Security Coordinator from 1987 to 1990, Programme Planning, Budget and Finance, and Controller from 1990 to 1992, and Peacekeeping Operations from March 1993 to February 1994.

In his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, ex-General Roméo Dallaire who was force commander of the UNAMIR claims that Annan has been overly passive in his response to the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. Gen. Dallaire explicitly stated that the then Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict and from providing more logistic and material support. For example, he claimed that Annan failed to provide any responses to Dallaire's repeated faxes asking him for access to a weapons depository, something that could have helped defend the Tutsis. Dallaire concedes however that Annan was a man whom he found extremely "committed" to the founding principles of the United Nations.

Annan was then an Under-Secretary-General until October 1995, when he was made a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia, serving for five months in this capacity and returning to his duties as Under-Secretary-General in April 1996.

Secretary-General of the United Nations

Annan in São Paulo, Brazil, during the "Civil Society Forum" in June 2004.
Annan in São Paulo, Brazil, during the "Civil Society Forum" in June 2004.

On December 13, 1996, Annan was selected by the United Nations Security Council to be Secretary-General, and was confirmed four days later by vote of the General Assembly. Annan took the oath of office without delay, starting his first term as Secretary-General on January 1, 1997. Annan replaced outgoing Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, becoming the first person from a black African nation to serve as Secretary-General.

Annan's tenure as Secretary-General was renewed on January 1, 2002, in an unusual deviation from informal policy. The office usually rotates among the continents, with two terms each; since Annan's predecessor Boutros-Ghali was also an African, Annan normally would have served only one term, indicating Annan's unusual popularity.

Mark Malloch Brown succeeded Louise Frechette as Annan's Deputy Secretary-General in April 2006.

In April 2001, the Secretary-General issued a five-point "Call to Action" to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Annan sees this pandemic as his "personal priority" as Secretary-General and in life in general. He proposed the establishment of a Global AIDS and Health Fund to stimulate increased spending needed to help developing countries confront the HIV/AIDS crisis.

On December 10, 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 buildup 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 and from the Charter point of view it was illegal."

Annan supports sending a UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur, Sudan, and is working with the government of Sudan to accept a transfer of power from the African Union peacekeeping mission to a UN one. Annan is also working with several Arab and Muslim countries on women's rights and other topics.

Since 1998, Annan has convened an annual UN Security Council Retreat with 15 States representatives of the Council at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) Conference Centre at the Rockefeller family estate at Pocantico (see Kykuit), which is sponsored by both the RBF and the UN. . He is also a strong supporter and guest of the family's Asia Society in New York.

On September 19, 2006, Annan gave a farewell address in anticipation of his retirement on December 31. 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 believes "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.

UN controversies during Annan's tenure

Lubbers sexual harassment investigation

In June 2004, Annan was given a copy of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report on the complaint of sexual harassment, abuse of authority, and retaliation against Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and sexual harassment and misconduct as well against Werner Blatter, Director of UNHCR Personnel by a long-serving staff member. The investigation report found Ruud Lubbers guilty of sexual harassment and no mention was made publicly of the other charge against a senior official or the two subsequent complaints she filed later that year. In the course of the official investigation, Lubbers wrote a letter that some speculate was a threat to the female worker who had brought the charges of misconduct. However, on July 15, 2004, Lubbers was declared innocent by Kofi Annan. His decision only lasted until November when OIOS issued its annual report to the UN General Assembly noting it has found Lubbers guilty. Widely reported in the media, these events served to weaken Annan's position.

On November 17, 2004, Annan accepted a report clearing UN Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services Dileep Nair of graft and sexual harassment charges, some viewed as retaliation against Nair for supporting the complainant in the Lubbers affair. Still, clearance was not viewed favorably by some UN staff in New York, leading to extensive debate on November 19.

Administration of the Oil-for-Food Programme

In December 2004, reports surfaced that the Secretary-General's son Kojo received payments from the Swiss company Cotecna Inspection SA, which won a lucrative contract under the UN Oil-for-Food Programme. Kofi Annan called for an investigation into this matter.

The Independent Inquiry Committee into The United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme was appointed by Annan and led by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, in spite of the latter's strong ideological ties to the UN as director of the United Nations Association of the United States of America. In his first interview with the Inquiry Committee, Annan denied having had a meeting with Cotecna. Later in the inquiry he recalled that he had met with Cotecna's chief executive Elie-Georges Massey twice. In a final report issued on October 27, the committee exonerated Kofi Annan of any illegal actions, but found fault with the UN management structure and the Security Council oversight. It strongly recommended a new position of Chief Operating Officer to handle the fiscal and administrative responsibilities which currently fall to the Secretary General's office. The report listed the companies, both Western and Middle Eastern, who illegally benefited from the programme. Some believe the committee and its outcome to have been politically motivated.

Conflict between the United States and the United Nations

Kofi Annan supported his deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, who openly criticized the United States media in a speech on June 6, 2006: 'The prevailing practice of seeking to use the U.N. almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics is simply not sustainable...You will lose the U.N. one way or another.' US ambassador John R. Bolton said to Annan on the phone: 'I've known you since 1989 and I'm telling you this is the worst mistake by a senior U.N. official that I have seen in that entire time.'

Annan's recommendations for U.N. reform

On March 21, 2005, Annan presented a progress report, In Larger Freedom, to the UN General Assembly. Annan recommended Security Council expansion and a host of other UN reforms.

On March 7, 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".


  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, (Kumasi), Honorary Doctor of Science, August 24, 1998
  • United Nations Mandated University for Peace, Honorary President, 1999
  • Lund University, Honorary Doctor of Law, 1999
  • National University of Ireland, Doctor of Law, January 22, 1999
  • Technische Universität Dresden, doctor honoris causa, April 27, 1999
  • Howard University, honorary doctorate of humane letters, May 8, 1999
  • University of Notre Dame, Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, May 21, 2000
  • Seton Hall University, John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Honorary Doctorate, February 2001
  • Brown University, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, May 28, 2001
  • Free University of Berlin, doctor honoris causa, July 13, 2001
  • Nobel Foundation, The Nobel Peace Prize, jointly presented to Kofi Annan and the United Nations, 2001
  • Northwestern University, Doctor of Laws, June 21, 2002
  • 2002 winner of the " Profiles in Courage Award," given by the JFK Memorial Museum.
  • University of Pittsburgh, honorary Doctor of Public and International Affairs degree October 21, 2003
  • Ghent University (Belgium), doctor honoris cause March 21, 2003
  • Carleton University, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, March 9, 2004
  • University of Ottawa, Doctor of the University Degree, March 9, 2004
  • University of Pennsylvania, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, May 16, 2005
  • Grand Collar of the Order of Liberty (Portugal), October 11, 2005
  • Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Doctor Honoris Causa, October 12, 2005
  • The George Washington University, Doctor of Public Service, May 5, 2006
  • University of Tokyo, Honorary Doctorate, May 18, 2006
  • Order of the Dutch Lion, Grand Cross, 2006
  • Georgetown University, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, October 30, 2006
  • University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, Max Schmidheiny Foundation Freedom Prize (originally awarded 2003, but postponed due to Annan's illness), November 18, 2006
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