Kofi Annan, the only black African to become UN secretary-general, dies.
The 80-year-old "passed away peacefully on Saturday 18 August, after a short illness", the foundation named after him said.
His home country, Ghana, has declared a week of national mourning. Annan served two terms as UN chief from 1997 to 2006, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work.
He later served as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a solution to the conflict.
In a statement announcing his death, the Kofi Annan Foundation
described him as a "global statesman and deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world". "Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy."
The career diplomat died in hospital in the Swiss city of Bern. He had been living near Geneva for several years. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for helping to revitalise the international body, during a period that coincided with the Iraq War and the HIV/Aids pandemic.
Kofi Annan described his greatest achievement as the Millennium Development Goals which - for the first time - set global targets on issues such as poverty and child mortality.
However, Annan was not immune from criticism. His critics blamed him for the UN's failure to halt the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s when he was head of the organisation's peacekeeping operations.
Later, after the US-led invasion of Iraq, he and his son were accused of being involved in the "oil for food corruption scandal" that led some to call for his resignation, though he was later exonerated.
In an interview with the BBC's Hard Talk to mark his 80th birthday in April, Annan acknowledged the UN's shortcomings, saying it "can be improved, it is not perfect but if it didn't exist you would have to create it".
"I am a stubborn optimist, I was born an optimist and will remain an optimist," he added.
Kofi Annan will be remembered for the way he drew attention, over and over again, to the plight of those caught up in war, environmental disaster, or simply grinding poverty.
The way he quietly but firmly reminded world leaders, however powerful, that they needed to put their duty to their citizens above their political careers.
Current UN chief Antonio Guterres has been leading the tributes to his predecessor, describing Annan as "a guiding force for good".
"In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination," he said in a statement.
UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein said in a tweet he was grief-stricken over Annan's death. Source: BBC
Former United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan