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Adieu Kofi Annan
by Amin George Forji
2007-01-05 09:24:56
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As the New Year begins, so does a new era for the world’s governing body, the United Nations Organization (UNO). Kofi Annan has stepped down and has been succeeded by South Korean diplomat Ban Ki-moon as the new world’s top administrator.

Ghanaian born Annan assumed office on January 1st 1997 as the seventh Secretary General of the organization, becoming the first person from a black African nation to act in that capacity.

Replacing another African, Egyptian born Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Annan was expected to serve just one term, in accordance with the body’s informal policy of rotating the post among all the continents, with each serving two mandates. However, Annan was deemed to have performed so excellently during his tenure of office that the UN General Assembly, in an unusual deviation, unanimously decided to conduct him for another five-year term, beginning on January 1st, 2002.

His second mandate was perhaps the most difficult for any Secretary General in the history of the organization. With America’s led “war on terror”, coded with the so-called “pre-emptive strike doctrine” being fought in total disregard of any authorization from the UN, Annan and the UN had no choice but to sit and watch the unfolding of events.

In addition, two major scandals also rocked the organization during his second mandate, notably: corruption in the UN oil for food programme that operated in Saddam Hussein's Iraq between 1996 and 2003 and uncountable reports of sex abuse by UN peacekeepers the world-over.

So, how will Annan be remembered?

Although the UN since its creation has been seen as a toothless bulldog, Annan, during his ten years, took a lot of interesting measures to strengthen the efficiency of the organization. In 2005, Annan proposed to member states of the organization to launch reforms that, if endorsed, would have made the organization more effective.

The recommendations included a proposal to enlarge the Security Council, redefining the rules on authorization of use of force as well as an agreed definition of terrorism. With member states largely disagreeing to agree on major issues, things remained almost at a standstill. But whether the measures worked or not may be another story, but the intention in itself was a good precedence.

Sweeping reforms aside, Annan throughout his two mandates strongly advocated for human rights and the rule of law - a move that won him much dignity the world-over. In fact, in 2001, he together with the UNO was awarded the prestigious Noble Peace Prize for championing the promotion and protection of human rights and development, and "for bringing new life to the organization".

Lee Feinstein, a UN diplomat with the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “His greatest accomplishment was to set a framework that moved the UN from one century to the next, the response to mass atrocities, the central role of democracy, the importance of human rights, and a priority to development.”

He also spoke consistently against the humanitarian situation in Darfur, and pushed world leaders to intervene to stop the atrocities. His greatest achievement is perhaps the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention”, which he introduced to bring governments and leaders massacring it’s own people to accountability. Despite resistance from some countries, 191 states ended up endorsing what is now known as the "the responsibility to protect," in 2005. He also fought against poverty, and the ambitious Millennium Development goals under his tenure sought to limit poverty the world-over by half by 2015.

On the negative side, Annan will also be remembered for the corruption in the UN oil for food programme that operated in Saddam Hussein's Iraq between 1996 and 2003. The UN actually reached its lowest point in 2004, when there were almost daily attacks on the said corruption allegations, reports of sex abuse by UN peacekeepers the world over as well as cases of bribery by officials of the UN.

Annan’s own son, Kojo Annan was implicated in the oil for food scandal, said to have received the sum of $300,000 as a bribery package from the Swiss company Cotecna, which was responsible for inspection in the Iraqi oil for food contract. By and large, Annan’s dream felt short of materialising to reality. The sweeping reforms he dreamt of never saw the day, meanwhile, the world, like in 1994 during the Rwanda genocide, is still seen wanting in the current Darfur crises.

Despite his open criticism, Annan was unable to contain the US and its allies from launching the second Gulf War as part of its global war on terror. As Annan himself described it, the so-called war on terror, especially concerning the war in Iraq, which completely disregarded multilateralism and human rights, fostering the doctrine of unilateralism or “ go it alone” policy.

Although the UN can today boast of added strength in fighting poverty, a lot nevertheless still has to be done. Its reputation is still in shambles as a toothless bulldog that can bark but cannot bite.

Annan says he will remain committed to the issues of the UN, even after his tenure. While delivering his farewell speech on Dec. 12, he said he has become part and parcel of the organization. “You can take the man out of the UN, but you can’t take the UN out of the man,” said Annan.

Annan may be right, but it his past that will definitely make his legacy, not his future. Before he could hand over the gadget, he made one last recommendation in his farewell speech-that a multilateral approach should be adopted to solving world crises. "How can states hold each other to account? Only through multilateral institutions. So my final lesson is that those institutions must be organized in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong," said Annan.

As Ban Ki-Moon steps into Annan’s shoes, the most to say to Mr. Annan is congratulations for the good job and adieu.

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