About Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations and the first to be appointed from the ranks of UN staff, began his tenure in the post on January 1, 1997.
Born in Kumasi, Ghana, on April 8, 1938, in what was then the British colony of the Gold Coast, Kofi and his twin sister, Efua Atta (who died in 1991), were part of one of the country’s elite families. At the age of 16, he left home to attend the Mfantsipim school, a Methodist boarding school in Cape Coast. He has said that the school taught him “that suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere.” In 1957, the year that he graduated from Mfantsipim, Ghana gained independence from Britain.
Kofi Annan began his university studies at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology (now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology), but then received a Ford Foundation scholarship to attend Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Macalester in 1961. In 1961-1962, he undertook further studies in economics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. Later, as a Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he received a master’s of science degree in management in 1972.
He began working within the UN system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer for the World Health Organization. Aside from several years in the mid-1970s, when he was involved in Ghana’s tourism industry, he spent his entire career at the UN. On March 1, 1993, he was appointed undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, a position that he held until he began his term as Secretary-General in 1997.
On December 10, 2001, Secretary-General Annan and the United Nations received the Nobel Peace Prize. In conferring the prize, the Nobel Committee said that the Secretary-General “had been pre-eminent in bringing new life to the Organization.”
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.
Secretary-General 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. n 2012, Annan was named the 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, where he resides with his wife Nane.