A Man for All Diplomatic Seasons
Kofi Annan’s journey is over. But the legacy of this leader of leaders will live on in the impact that his work on behalf of the environment, education, and poverty reduction continues to have on the lives of people on every continent.
EDINBURGH – Kofi Annan will be mourned on every continent. Under his leadership of the United Nations, internationally shared goals for development (the Millennium Development Goals) were agreed for the first time. But there were other important firsts that occurred on Annan’s watch: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria was created; $100 billion of African debt was forgiven; aid to the poorest countries rose fast; the Responsibility to Protect principle moved from one man’s aspiration to unanimous endorsement by the United Nations General Assembly; and the first steps toward the Paris climate agreement were taken.
These were just a few of the causes that Annan championed. His achievements confound those who write off the UN as a mere talking shop.
I remember attending, at his invitation, a meeting of the Kofi Annan Foundation in Geneva and discovering how in his retirement he was advising, in one way or another, a half-dozen countries in Asia, one or two in Latin America, and the majority of countries of Africa on human rights, elections, or poverty alleviation. For that reason, no single assessment can do justice to the breadth and depth of the successes of a leader who brought the UN’s decision-making out of smoke-filled rooms and into the twenty-first century.
We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.
To continue reading, subscribe now.
Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
Already have an account or want to create one to read two commentaries for free? Log in