Kofi Annan: 12 Major Accomplishments

Kofi Annan – The first sub-Saharan African to be elected UN chief.

Rising steadily through the ranks of the global body the United Nations (U.N.), Ghana’s Kofi Annan was a renowned statesman, diplomat, peace broker, human rights activist, and the seventh Secretary-General of the U.N.

In his most famous position as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, he served from January 1997 to December 2006. His tenure as chief of the UN was very impactful as he introduced a number of reforms that made the UN relevant again and capable of dealing with an ever-changing 21st century environment.

Annan was constantly at the forefront of human rights and peace building initiatives across the world. He is credited with boosting peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations as well as collaborating with many civil societies and private organizations to contain the spread of HIV/AIDs, promote human rights, end/alleviate hunger,  and enhance the rule of law. In 2001, he was honored, along with the United Nations, with the Nobel Prize for Peace.

What other initiatives of Kofi Annan changed the world? In the article below World History Edu explores the life and 12 major accomplishments of Kofi Annan.

Quick facts about Kofi Annan

Date and place of place of birth: April 8, 1938; Kumasi, Gold Coast (now Ghana)

Date and place of death: August 18, 2018, Bern, Switzerland


Parents: Victoria Annan and Henry Reginald Annan

Siblings: Kobina Annan, Efua Atta

Spouses: Tit Alakija (1965-1983), Nane Lagergren (1984-2018)

Children: three, including Ama and Kojo

Education and Career:

Education: University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana; Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota; Institute of International Affairs in Geneva (1961-1962); Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management (1972)

Most famous for: Seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2001

Joined the United Nations: 1962

Languages spoken: Fluent in English, French and other African languages

Works published: The memoir Interventions: A Life in War and Peace (co written with Nader Mousavizadeh) in 2012


On August 18, 2018, Kofi Annan, at the age of 80, died in hospital in Bern, Switzerland, after a brief illness. He was survived by three children, five grandchildren and his wife Nane.

How Kofi Annan became the Seventh UN Secretary-General

Going into the 1996 elections for the Secretary-Generalship of the UN, then-UN head Boutros Boutros-Ghali run unopposed; however, he was unable to secure the vote of the United States, one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Throughout his first term the Egyptian diplomat’s policies had caused a rift between the UN and some member countries, particularly the United States. Therefore, Ghali’s attempt to secure a second term as the UN boss was vetoed by the United States. This allowed Annan to emerge as the leading candidate for the job. The Ghanaian-born defeated Ivorian diplomat Amara Essy by one vote in the first round.

On December 13, 1996 the 15-member country that make up the UN Security Council gave a thumb ups to Annan’s appointment. Annan’s appointment was then confirmed on December 17 by the UN General Assembly.

Kofi Annan officially took office on January 1, 1997, succeeding Egypt’s Boutros Boutros-Ghali. After a very impactful first term, Annan secured a second term in late June 2001.

Kofi Annan

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Kofi Annan’s achievements

Major Accomplishments of Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan – facts and achievements

Kofi Annan’s reign as chief of the United Nations was in sharp contrast to the term of his predecessor, Egyptian diplomat Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who had alienated some UN member countries, particularly the United States. Annan’s legacy lies in the fact that he was able to build consensus due to his multinational and open dialogue style of running the organization.

Below, we present 12 major accomplishments of Kofi Annan.

Increased the confidence people had in the United Nations

Kofi Annan’s reign at the helm of the United States began with a series of reforms and restructuring activities in the UN. He introduced those reforms to make the UN more transparent and accountable to the public. In his first year, two reports were released to the public, outlining how the UN planned to implement a comprehensive management reform titled Renewing the United Nations: A Program for Reform (A/51/950). Annan also supported the introduction of cabinet-style organization which was underpinned by four carefully selected core missions.

Established the position of Deputy Secretary-General

Kofi Annan also devoted a significant amount of effort and resources into restructuring the organization to make it serve the needs of the global in a more efficient and sustainable manner. He introduced the position of Deputy Secretary-General of the UN while at the same time tried to reduced excessive bureaucracy in the organization.

Another cost-cutting measure taking by Annan involved the reduction of posts that stifled the achievement of core objectives of the organization. His cost-cutting measures that streamlined the entire operations of the UN were met with enormous praise from many of the organization’s member nations, including the United States, which is by the way one of the biggest donors to the UN.

Kofi Annan

Annan reformed and bolstered the management system of the UN – making it more transparent, coherent and accountable to the member nations.

Positioned the UN to work more effectively with civil society across the globe

Compared to his predecessor’s tenure that saw the alienation of some key global powers, Annan’s tenure was one that did the exact opposite. Going by his mantra “suffering anywhere, concerns people everywhere”, Annan was committed to securing support from across the board in pushing for civil rights and human rights. To do this, he invited the participation of civil society and private organizations. This commitment of his was evident when he organized a Millennium Summit in 2000.

Promoted human rights around the world

Wielding such a distinguished and extremely important position, Annan knew that he had an opportunity of a life-time to advance human rights in every knook and cranny of the world. He set about by fixing the UN’s credibility issue by making the organization walk the talk. He was of the firm belief that the UN was more than ever a huge force of good.

His term saw the formation of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

Kofi Annan with the President of Russia Vladimir Putin at United Nations Headquarters in New York City on 16 November 2001.

In his second term (2001-2006), Annan’s efforts culminated in the formation of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a body established to promote and protect human rights across the globe. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the UNHRC carries out investigations across the world regarding violations of human rights and other issues, including LGBT rights, freedom of belief and religion, and rights of ethnic and racial minorities, among others. After its establishment, Secretary-General Annan cautioned the Council not to give “free pass” to certain countries over their human rights violations.

Renewed the UN’s commitment to the prevention and resolution of conflicts around the world

Prior to becoming UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan gained vast experience in the early 1990s serving as the deputy to then Under-Secretary-General Marrack Goulding in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. In that role he was instrumental during the transition of peacekeeping operations from United Nations forces to NATO forces during the Bosnian Civil War.

Upon becoming the UN boss, peacekeeping operations around the world became one of the activities that he focused on. Annan worked very hard to overhaul the UN peacekeeping operations and develop strategies that would make the organization avoid mistakes like the ones made during the Rwandan Genocide. He wholeheartedly supported the increased funding for peacekeeping operations, which would in turn allow the UN address threats quicker and more effectively.

He also worked tirelessly to secure an end to hostilities in many parts of Africa and the Middle East, including the conflict between Israel and Iranian-backed group Hizbollah in 2006.

Kofi Annan

Secretary-General Annan was key in establishing the Millennium Development Goals

Annan’s reason in overhauling the United Nations Secretariat was so that the body could handle operations pertaining to realization of the Millennium Development Goals. At the Millennium Summit in September, 2000, leaders from around the world assembled at the UN headquarters in New York City to ratify about 60 goals pertaining to the promotion of human rights, reduction of extreme hunger and poverty, especially in Africa, advancement of gender equality, peace-building, and sustainable economic development for all countries.

Kofi Annan was at the forefront of the summit, and he is credited with convincing many of those world leaders to support those goals. His effort is part of the reason why the Millennium Development Goals for 2015 – i.e. eight international development goals – received tremendous global support.

Strengthened the relationship between the UN and its Member States

As part of his efforts to make the UN an all-inclusive organization and a force for positive change, Annan spent his tenure boosting ties among UN member states. He was of the firm belief that only through multinational dialogue that the world stood a chance to nip in the bud many international conflicts.

Kofi Annan worked with many multinational corporations and governments to foster peace and prosperity for all its Member States, especially those developing countries in Africa, South America and Asia. Kofi Annan with several African leaders at the launch of the African Union (AU), from left: Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Kofi Annan (UN), Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique), Gnassingbé Eyadéma (Togo), Muammar el-Qaddafi (Libya). Image

Annan worked very hard to bridge the digital divide

In 2oo1, Annan helped establish the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force (UN ICT TF) to bridge the global digital divide and create digital opportunities for all, especially people in developing countries. The task force, which had a mandate of three years, partnered with many UN bodies, member states, private individuals and companies, donors and other stakeholders. Some notable private companies that Annan spoke to included Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Siemens, and among others.

Kofi Annan

Annan was undoubted one of the greatest peace builders of the modern era.

Annan supported the establishment of the United Nations Global Compact

The UN Global Compact Initiative was set up in 2000 to promote greater corporate social responsibility from private firms and businesses across the world. Annan was of the firm belief that the non-binding pact would go a long way in tackling in a sustainable manner some of the social and economic problems faced by some of the poorest countries in the world.

At the heart of the UN Global Compact lay issues that Annan was most concerned about, including the promotion of human rights, ending of child labor, and protection of the adoption of sustainable forms of energy. The UN Global Compact, which is headquartered in New York City, collaborates with several thousands of businesses, civil society groups and labor organizations in more than 170 countries. Since its formation in 2000, the UNGC has provided invaluable support to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), tackling extreme corruption and human rights issues worldwide.

Annan announced the formation of the UN Global Compact at a World Economic Forum conference on January 31, 1999. On July 26, 2000, the UNGC was born with its headquarters in New York City.

Used his position to curtail epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis

U.S. President George W. Bush welcomes Nigerian President Olusegun Obsanjo and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan into Oval office during their meeting on the HIV/AIDS Trust Fund Initiative, Friday, May 11.

In his first term as UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan played a crucial role in the establishment of a global fund to address the crippling epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Annan reasoned that those epidemics thwarted the UN’s effort to foster peace and economic prosperity for all. Established on January 28, 2002, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is supported kind courtesy to an international financing initiative which in turn relies on partnerships with several private individuals and organizations.

Kofi Annan’s called on many world leaders and business captains to support the Global Fund so as to achieve a sustainable future for all. Even long after the tenure of Kofi Annan, the Global Fund continues its fight against HIV/AIDS and other global pandemics. Its efforts have saved the lives of tens of millions of people.

Since its establishment in 2002, the Global Fund has received support from very wealthy individuals, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates (through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). By 2019, it had disbursed more than $40 billion worldwide to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Read More: Greatest African Leaders of All Time

Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001

Kofi Annan was the co-recipient the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. He received the honor along with the United Nations “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world,”

For his life-long commitment to the promotion of peace, gender equality, and the fight against HIV in Africa, Kofi Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. He received the honor jointly with the United Nations. Annan was particularly praised (by commentators and world leaders) for the significant works he made in promoting human rights across the world.

Kofi Annan

Other notable achievements of Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan – facts and achievements

In addition to improving the strained relations between the UN and some member countries, Annan’s term as the 7th Secretary-General of the UN saw him achieve the following:

  • Kofi Annan overhauled the United Nations Secretariat, making it more adaptable to the changing and complex needs of the 21st century
  • He introduced the United Nations’s first-ever counter-terrorism strategy. It came following the September 11 attacks in the United States.
  • Annan was heavily involved in efforts to resolve the Kenyan election crisis which started in late 2007. He was the head of the Panel of Eminent African Personalities that helped secure a power-sharing agreement between opposition leader (led by Raila Odinga) and the Kenyan government (led by President Mwai Kibaki) in February 28, 2008.
  • For promoting unity and peace in Europe, he received the biannual Peace of Westphalia Prize in 2008.
  • In 2007, he established the Kofi Annan Foundation – a nonprofit organization committed to promoting peace, human rights, rule of law, and sustainable development worldwide. It remains to this day one of the most famous and effective organizations in private diplomacy.
  • Kofi Annan was appointed joint special envoy for Syria by the UN and the League of Arab States in February, 2012. Along with many stakeholders, he came out with a six-point proposal to end the civil war. The proposal, which received the UN Security Council, did very little to stop the warring sides to put down their arms. In August of that year, Annan left the post, siting the lack of unity and political will among global powers to end the civil war in Syria.
  • In 2006, Annan intervened in the dispute between Nigeria and its neighbor Cameroon over the Bakassi peninsula. His efforts paid off as the two countries were able to arrive at an amicable settlement through implementation of the International Court of Justice ruling.
  • He supported the establishment of human security and intervention initiatives capable of intervening in situations that could spiral into genocide. He called this effort of his the “Responsibility to Protect”.
  • Kofi Annan tried to build an international support to dissuade the United States and the United Kingdom not to invade Iraq without the UN support.
  • In 1999, he gave his full backing and that of the United Nations’ to securing independence of East Timor’s (Timor-Leste) from Indonesia.
  • Following the death of Nigerian military head of state San Abacha (1943-1998) in 1998, Annan was heavily involved in efforts to help Nigeria return to civilian rule and democracy.
  • From 2007 to 2018, he was chairman of the prize committee at the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.
  • He was also chair of The Elders. Founded by former South African president Nelson Mandela, The Elders is an international non-governmental organization that includes renowned former world leaders, statesmen, human rights activists and peace campaigners. Some notable members of the Elders are Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, former Secretary-General of the UN Ban Ki-moon, and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
  • From 2008 to 2018, he served as the chancellor of the University of Ghana, Ghana’s largest and oldest national public university.
  • In the year that he won the Nobel Peace Prize, Annan received the title Busumuru from Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, king of the Asante people in Ghana. The title Busumuru is the highest honor a civilian can receive in the Asante Empire. It is comparable to the Presidential Medal of Freedom in our nation.

Annan is most famed for his contributions to peace and the promotion of unity, dialogue and economic prosperity for all. He also advocated for the rule of law and human rights.

More Kofi Annan Facts

Here are more facts about Kofi Annan, 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations

  • Kofi in his name means “born on a Friday” in Akan.
  • His father, a paramount chief, was the Akan tribe in Ghana (formerly Gold Coast).
  • Annan had a twin sister called Efua Atta who died in 1991.
  • He hailed from a Fante aristocratic family in Ghana. Both his grandfathers and uncle were paramount chiefs.
  • Annan attended Mfantsipim School – an all-boys Methodist boarding school in Cape Coast, Ghana.
  • He studied economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology (Now Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology). He then won a Ford Foundation grant to complete his undergraduate studies in economics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
  • With about the exception of a couple of years working as a tour guide in Ghana (between 1974 and 1976), Kofi Annan devoted all his working life to the United Nations. He joined the UN in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. He would then rise steadily to become the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations in 1993 and then secretary-general of the entire organization in 1997.
  • From 1995 to 1996, Annan served as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia.
  • Annan bemoaned his inability to do more to raise awareness of the ethnic cleansing and genocide that went on during the Rwandan Genocide. He was somewhat passive in providing adequate support to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda.
  • The Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT – Ghana’s first Advanced Information Technology Institute (AITI) – was established in December 2003. A Ghana-India partnership, the center seeks to enhance ICT learning and development in Ghana and the West African sub-region.

9th UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Kofi Annan’s legacy

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