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Former UN Chief Kofi Annan to Speak at CCNY February 8

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Talk coincides with launch of his newly published official papers

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose leadership of the world body earned him the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, will deliver an address at The City College of New York 10 a.m. Friday, February 8. His talk will cover the challenges he faced as secretary-general and the future of the United Nations. It coincides with the launch of his published official papers, which are held at City College.

The speech, titled “Kofi Annan: Insights into a Challenging Decade and the Future of the UN,” will be delivered in The Great Hall, Shepard Hall, and is free and open to the public. It is presented by the Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Service.

Lynne Rienner Publishers published Mr. Annan’s collected papers as a five-volume set following a six-year joint CCNY-Yale University project. Jean E. Krasno, initiative director for multilateral diplomacy and international organizations with the Colin Powell Center, headed the project.

The collection offers an organized historical record of selected public and declassified papers of the former UN chief, Dr. Krasno said. It makes the breadth and depth of his work accessible to scholars, students and policymakers, she added.

“Mr. Annan is a pivotal leader who focused the world's attention on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, confronted human-rights issues in Africa and has served as a tireless peacemaker in critical conflicts, most recently as the joint special envoy to the Syrian crisis,” noted Dr. Krasno, who also directs CCNY’s graduate international relations program.

The papers reveal the Ghanaian-born diplomat’s pivotal role in settling conflicts, she added. “They demonstrate Kofi Annan’s unique ability to negotiate settlements and to find peaceful solutions in conflict situations. And they lead us to understand why he was selected as joint special envoy to Syria.”

Dr. Krasno noted that Mr. Annan led the United Nations (1997-2006) at a very important period in international relations, spanning the end of the Cold War and the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “He also holds a unique position because he established new expanded norms for the international community in terms of their role and responsibilities,” she said.

The collection also highlights Mr. Annan’s leadership in focusing the world’s attention on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, his evolving and increasingly concrete anti-poverty efforts and his work to confront human-rights issues in Africa. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for his role in establishing a global AIDS fund for developing countries.

Mr. Annan authorized the CCNY-Yale project, enabling access to papers that otherwise would have been locked up for 20 years in UN archives, in accordance with the organization’s policy. The volumes include public papers, such as speeches, declassified internal notes between Kofi Annan and his advisers, and off-the-cuff encounters with the press.

About Kofi Atta Annan

Kofi Atta Annan served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006. He was the first UN head to be appointed from within the ranks of the organization. His tenure spanned the post-Cold War era and the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Mr. Annan was credited for instilling fresh impetus in the United Nations in conflict resolution and preserving peace.

After five years in office, Mr. Annan and the United Nations were awarded the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee applauded the Secretary-General and noted that he “had been pre-eminent in bringing new life to the Organization.”

Born in Kumasi, Ghana, in what was then the British colony of the Gold Coast, Mr. Annan was educated at a Methodist boarding school where he said he was taught that “suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere.” He attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., on a Ford Foundation scholarship, and graduated with a BS in economics in 1961. He also studied at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and was a Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mr. Annan earned an MS degree in management from MIT in 1972.

A United Nations official for most of his professional life, Mr. Annan joined the organization in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer for the World Health Organization. He was involved in Ghana’s tourism industry in the mid-1970s, but later returned to the UN. On March 1, 1993, he was appointed undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, a position he held until he began his term as Secretary-General in 1997.

In an unprecedented move, the Security Council and General Assembly reappointed Secretary-General Annan to a second term in June 2001 instead of waiting until late in the year, as is usual. He completed his ten years in office on December 31, 2006.

Mr. Annan remains active in world affairs, and was instrumental in obtaining the agreement for a coalition government in Kenya that ended the violence following the country’s December 2007 presidential elections.

In 2012, Mr. Annan was named special envoy to Syria by both the United Nations and the League of Arab States to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict there. He remained in the position for six months, stepping down in August 2012. He currently directs the Kofi Annan Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Ellis Simon
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