Kofi Atta Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana, on 8 April 1938, and was fluent in English, French and several African languages. His father was the governor of Asante province and a hereditary paramount chief of the Fante people. He studied at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi before enrolling at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. In 1961-1962, he undertook graduate studies at the Institute of International Affairs in Geneva, and in 1972 earned a Master of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. Annan married a Nigerian woman Titi Alakija in 1965, but they later separated in the 1970s, and divorced in 1983. They have two children, Ama and Kojo, together. He later got married to Nane Lagergren, a Swedish lawyer. She has a daughter from a previous marriage.

Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations and the first to emerge from the ranks of United Nations staff. He joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva (Switzerland). He later served with the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), the UN Emergency Force (UNEF II) in Ismailia (Egypt), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, (Switzerland), and at various senior posts in New York, dealing with human resources, budget, finance and staff security. Mr Annan also served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia (1995-1996), and facilitated the repatriation from Iraq of more than 900 international staff and other non-Iraqi nationals (1990). Immediately before becoming the Secretary-General – the seventh of the world body – in 1997, he was Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping.

As Secretary-General, Mr. Annan used his good office in several delicate political situations, including an attempt, in 1998, to gain Iraq’s compliance with Security Council resolutions, as well as a mission that year to promote the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria. In 1999, he helped break the stalemate between Libya and the Security Council, and to forge an international response to violence in East Timor. In 2000, he certified Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon. After the renewed outbreak of violence in the Middle East in September 2000, he worked to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their differences through negotiations based on the UNSC resolutions and the principle of “land for peace”.

As Secretary-General, Mr. Annan gave priority to revitalizing the UN through a comprehensive programme of reform; strengthening the world body’s traditional work in the areas of development and the maintenance of international peace and security; advocating human rights, the rule of law and the universal values of equality, tolerance and human dignity; restoring public confidence in the Organization by reaching out to new partners and, in his words, by “bringing the United Nations closer to the people”. He also took a leading role in mobilizing the international community in the battle against HIV/AIDS, and also global terrorist threat.


One of Mr Annan’s main priorities as Secretary-General was a comprehensive programme of reform aimed at revitalizing the United Nations and making the international system more effective. He was a constant advocate for human rights, the rule of law, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Africa, and sought to bring the Organization closer to the global public by forging ties with civil society, the private sector and other partners. It was also at Mr. Annan’s urging that, in 2005, UN member states established two new intergovernmental bodies: the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council. Mr Annan also played a central role in the creation of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the adoption of the UN’s first-ever counter-terrorism strategy, and the acceptance by Member States of the “responsibility to protect” people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. His “Global Compact” initiative, launched in 1999, has become the world’s largest effort to promote corporate social responsibility.

To mark the millennium he issued the report We the Peoples: The Role of the UN in the 21st Century, which called on member states to commit themselves to an action plan to end poverty, improve education and reduce HIV/Aids. He developed his own “Kofi doctrine” that sovereignty could no longer be a shield against UN intervention on behalf of “we, the peoples”.

Having been directly involved with peacekeeping before becoming secretary general, Annan was familiar with the shortcomings of UN operations. He not only tried to strengthen the organisational back-up in New York but called for member nations to organise rapid reaction forces, specially trained and available to assemble and operate at short notice. He also supported the practice that regional organisations – such as the Organisation of African Unity or Nato – should act as surrogates for the UN to supply peacekeepers for crisis areas.

Mr. Annan was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace, jointly with the Organization. He has also received numerous honorary degrees and many other national and international prizes, medals and honors. His memoir, “Interventions: A Life in War and Peace,” has been published. The book is written with Nader Mousavizadeh.

Annan retired on December 31, 2006. Several months prior, he gave a farewell speech to world leaders at the UN headquarters in New York, outlining major problems with an unjust world economy and widespread contempt for human rights. “We are not only all responsible for each other’s security,” Annan said in his speech, “We are also, in some measure, responsible for each other’s welfare. Global solidarity is both necessary and possible. It is necessary because without a measure of solidarity no society can be truly stable, and no one’s prosperity truly secure.” Following his retirement, Annan returned to Ghana. He became involved with a number of organizations with a global focus. He was chosen to lead the formation of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, became a member of the Global Elders and was appointed president of the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva. In 2009, Annan joined a Columbia University program at the university’s School of International and Public Affairs. In February 2012, Annan was appointed as the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria in an attempt to end the civil war taking place there. He developed a six-point plan for peace. He resigned from the position, citing intransigence of both the Syrian government and the rebels, as well as the Security Council’s failure to create a peaceful resolution.