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Kofi Annan's Legacy Honored
The UN remembers the late former secretary general
By Yu Shujun | Web exclusive
 

UN Secretary General António Guterres delivers a speech after signing the condolence book at a ceremony honoring the late former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan held at the UN headquarters in New York City on August 22 (YU SHUJUN)

A memorial ceremony was held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on August 22 to pay tribute to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who died in Switzerland on August 18, at the age of 80.

"We are here to pay tribute to Kofi Annan, one of the best of us, a man who embodied United Nations values and made us all proud to call ourselves his colleagues," said current UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the ceremony.

Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, became the first black African UN Secretary-General in 1997 and served until 2006.

"Kofi Annan's years in office were an exciting time. He put forward new ideas. He brought new people into the United Nations family. He spoke passionately about our mission and our role. He created a renewed sense of possibilities both inside and outside our organization about what the UN could do and could be for the world's people," Guterres said.

"His most defining features were his humanity and solidarity with those in need," said Guterres. "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."

UN Secretary General António Guterres signs the condolence book at the ceremony honoring the late former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan held at the UN headquarters in New York City on August 22 (YU SHUJUN)

The world is still reaping the rewards of the Millennium Summit, when Annan brought the world together to agree on the first global targets against poverty and child mortality. His response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic united governments, nongovernmental organizations and the healthcare industry and undoubtedly saved many lives, Guterres added.

Annan also faced up to the grave errors made by the UN in the 1990s, including its response to genocide in Rwanda and the Srebrenica killings, by shining a light inside the UN, Guterres said.

"The reports he commissioned aimed to make sure such terrible mistakes are never repeated, and set the international community on a new course in its response to mass atrocities," the UN chief said.

"A true voice for the voiceless, he did not shy away from the most challenging issues, but worked creatively to bridge differences and protect the most vulnerable," Guterres continued. "He stood his ground without antagonizing others; his humility, good humor, courtesy and charm went hand in hand with enormous wisdom and strength."

Annan will be remembered not only for being an extraordinary statesman, a remarkable diplomat and an inspiring leader but also for his gentleness, warmth and friendship, said Guterres. "He was indeed a good man and a gentleman and always at our disposal to support us, to comfort us, to be in full solidarity with us in any difficult moment that one of us, as his colleagues might have."

Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, the Permanent Representative of Ghana to the UN, speaks after signing the condolence book at a ceremony honoring the late former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan held at the UN headquarters in New York City on August 22 (YU SHUJUN)

Guterres quoted Annan's own words delivered when he received the Nobel Peace prize, "Securing real and lasting improvement in the lives of individual men and women is the measure of all we do at the United Nations."

"In these times of growing political divide and intractable conflicts, we need the peacemaking spirit of Kofi Annan more than ever," he concluded.

(Reporting from New York)

Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo

Comments to yushujun@bjreview.com

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