Kofi Atta Annan (born April 8, 1938) 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 January 1, 1997.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Mr. Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana. 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. In the UN Secretariat, he served with the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF II) in Ismailia (Egypt) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. Moving on to high-level posts at UN Headquarters in New York, he served 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, Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar asked Mr. Annan, as a special assignment, to facilitate the repatriation of more than 900 international staff and nationals of Western countries from Iraq. He subsequently led the first United Nations team to negotiate with Iraq on the sale of petroleum to fund purchases of humanitarian supplies.
Mr. Annan next served as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (March 1992 - February 1993) and then as Under-Secretary-General (March 1993 - December 1996), the post he held when the Security Council and the General Assembly selected him to succeed Boutros Boutros-Ghali as Secretary-General. 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 (Ohio) Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he was Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia. In that capacity he oversaw the transition in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to the multinational Implementation Force (IFOR) led by NATO.
Mr. Annan's expressed priorities as Secretary-General have been to revitalize the United Nations through comprehensive reform, to strengthen its work for development and the maintenance of international peace and security, and to encourage and advocate human rights, the rule of law and the universal values of equality, tolerance and human dignity. He has placed special emphasis on 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".
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 on disarmament; 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 bombing of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland; diplomacy in 1999 to forge an international response to violence in East Timor; the certification of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in September 2000, and further efforts, since the renewed outbreak of violence in September 2000, to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their differences through peaceful negotiations based on Security Council resolutions and the principle of "land for peace".
He has also sought to improve the status of women in the UN 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 labor and civil organizations, aimed at enabling all the world's peoples to share the benefits of globalization and embedding in the global market values and practices designed to meet socioeconomic needs.
In April 2000, he issued a Millennium Report, entitled "We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century". In this document he called on UN members to commit themselves to an action plan for ending poverty and inequality, improving education, reducing HI/AIDS, safeguarding the environment, and protecting peoples from deadly conflict and violence. The report formed the underpinning of the Millennium Declaration adopted by Heads of State and Government at the General Assembly's Millennium Summit, held at UN Headquarters in September 2000.
In April 2001, the Secretary-General issued a five-point "Call to Action" to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic -- which he described as his "personal priority". He proposed the establishment of a Global AIDS and Health Fund to serve as a mechanism for some of the increased spending needed to help developing countries confront the crisis.
On June 29, 2001, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council, unanimously appointed Mr. Annan to a second term as Secretary-General, beginning on 1 January 2002 and ending on 31 December 2006. The unprecedentedly early decision, more than half a year before his first term was due to expire, was widely viewed as a mark of his popularity among member states.
On 12 October 2001, it was announced that Kofi Annan would share the Nobel Peace Prize with the organisation he headed.
The Secretary-General is fluent in English, French and several African languages. He is married to Nane Annan of Sweden, a lawyer and artist. She has been active in the fight against HIV/AIDS and in improving education for women. She has also written a book for children about the United Nations. Mr. and Mrs. Annan have three children.
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This article was originally based on biographical data from the United Nations website