Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, has observed that on one hand Kofi Annan’s passing has evoked an unparalleled combination of admiration, inspiration and focus on his gravitas through his global stature, and this has aroused a great degree of sadness as his absence will be sorely felt.
“On the other hand, the seminar is certainly a positive way of acknowledging his very impactful life and work, which has resulted in the setting up of this world-class institution bearing his name and concretely dedicated to his commitment to global peace and security,” Botchway added.
This formed the Foreign and Regional Integration Minister’s opening remarks at a celebratory symposium held in honour of Ghana’s greatest export – Kofi Annan – at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra last Friday.
Madam Botchway said Ghana’s successful candidature of Kofi Annan to the high office of Secretary-General of the UN was another high mark in Ghana’s international diplomacy.
“This highly visible diplomatic position, which he held with such competence and grace from January 1997 till December 2006, helped in showcasing the Ghanaian and African personality.”
She mentioned some of Kofi’s well-known accomplishments, such as his issuance of a five-point Call to Action in April 2001 to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic and his proposal to create a global AIDS and Health Fund, which were in with Ghana/Africa’s interest.
On behalf of the United Nations body, Christine Evans-Klock-UN Resident Coordinator to Ghana, said Kofi’s storied career of moving up within the UN is legendary. “His first post in the UN was as modest as can be imagined – as a budget officer with one of the UN’s Specialised Agencies, the World Health Organisation, at its global headquarters in Geneva.”
When elected Secretary-General, she added, his breadth of experience inside the UN from administration and operations to human rights, refugees, peacekeeping, and his understanding of how the UN ticked – from inside UN agencies to workings of the General Assembly and the Security Council -was far beyond that of any prior Secretary-General.
“I think this gave him confidence to expect more of the institution, and enabled him to launch internal changes which continue to have an impact inside the UN in terms of our efficiency and effectiveness.”
It was his leadership that convinced the UN member-states to set targets for ending poverty, to measure their progress, and hold each other to account in meeting common goals. The Millennium Development goals were his idea of how the world could celebrate the turning of the millennium.
“The UN in Ghana remains proud that his home country was the first in sub-Saharan Africa to meet the MDG target to reduce by half the portion of the population living in extreme poverty. Ghana also met the goals to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and to increase enrolment of girls and boys equally in primary education.”
The Nobel Peace Prize 2001 was awarded jointly to the United Nations and Kofi Annan as Secretary-General for their work toward a better-organised and peaceful world, Evans-Klock added. She stated that Kofi Annan faced up to the grave errors made by the UN in 1990s – in response to the Rwanda genocide and the Srebrenica killings – by shining a light inside the UN.
“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.”
Ambassador Patrick Hayford, who worked closely with Kofi Annan at the UN, said he joined his team in the middle of his first term as Secretary-General as director for Africa in the Executive Office in July 1999, when there was civil war in Liberia, Angola – and one thing he observed of Kofi was his ability to remain amazingly clam, no matter the crisis at hand.
He described Kofi Annan as thoughtful and gracious person who exuded personal empathy and took well-consulted decisions. “His energy, focus and intensity were truly extraordinary and he always insisted on quality.”
Professor of Law, Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, moderated the programme and said a lot has been said of Kofi and much more will be said of him; but to her, Resolution 1325 (which deals with women and children in conflict areas) remains an enduring legacy.