Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan left mixed legacy at United Nations

World Today

For many, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was an extraordinary statesman, diplomat and gentleman. But his tenure at United Nations was not been without controversy.

In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations.

That is how current Secretary- General Antonio Guterres described his predecessor during remarks at his funeral.

CGTN’s Liling Tan reports.

“He put people at the center of the work of the United Nations, and was able to turn compassion into action across the UN system.”

A true child of the organization, Kofi Annan began his U.N. career in 1962, at just 24 -years- old.

Over more than three decades, he rose through the ranks to become Secretary- General from 1997 to 2006.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric recalls when he first joined the late U.N. Chief’s team in 2005.

“I remember the first time I met him. My boss at the time Fred Eckhard introduced me to him quickly as he was coming into the building, and then I remember feeling overwhelmed by the fact that this man, a very powerful man, just took a few minutes to meet his junior staff member and from that moment on I felt very much at home and at ease with him.”

It was that humility and approachability that endeared him to people within the U.N., and his gentle diplomacy that inspired the world.

“I think people will remember him for the enormous amount of reform that we saw during his tenure as Secretary-General. The creation of the Human Rights Council, of the Peacebuilding Commission, the adoption of what we now consider flagship initiatives of the U.N. – the Millennium Development Goals most prominently,” said Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations.

For his accomplishments, Kofi Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

But his time here also saw some of the darkest moments in U.N. history.

His failure to prevent the Iraq War, and to stop the genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s scarred the organization.

Kofi Annan had taken these failures very personally and tried to atone for them, especially for Rwanda.

“Kofi Annan was not perfect. And in his period before he became Secretary-General in 1997, before that he was the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping. And during that time, the Rwanda situation happened. This was on his watch. The U.N. did not handle it right. They had information the genocide was unfolding. They had information from the field and they did not ring the alarm bells and run to the Security Council. “If he were sitting here right now, I think Kofi Annan would say he learnt a big lesson from that,” Louis Charbonneau, U.N. Director, Human Rights Watch said.

Kofi Annan may have been an extraordinary statesman, diplomat, and gentleman, but many say it is his peacemaking spirit and his willingness to acknowledge failures and make up for them, that will endure.


World leaders and international dignitaries pay final respects to Kofi Annan in Ghana

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been laid to rest in a military cemetery in Ghana. World leaders and international dignitaries attended the funeral service in Accra. CGTN’s Robert Nagila reports.