Peace­maker re­de­fined United Na­tions for trou­bled times

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY ALAN COW­ELL

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan, a soft­spo­ken and pa­tri­cian diplo­mat from Ghana, who be­came the sev­enth sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the United Na­tions, pro­ject­ing him­self and his or­ga­ni­za­tion as the world’s con­science and moral ar­biter de­spite bloody de­ba­cles that left in­deli­ble stains on his record as a peace­keeper, died on Satur­day. He was 80.

His death, af­ter a short ill­ness, was con­firmed by his fam­ily in a state­ment from the Kofi Annan Foun­da­tion, which is based in Switzer­land.

Awarded the No­bel Peace Prize in 2001, he was the first black African to head the United Na­tions, and led the or­ga­ni­za­tion for two suc­ces­sive five-year terms be­gin­ning in 1997 – a decade of tur­moil that chal­lenged the sprawl­ing body and re­de­fined its place in a chang­ing world.

On his watch as what the No­bel com­mit­tee called Africa’s fore­most diplo­mat, al-Qaida struck New York and Wash­ing­ton, the United States in­vaded Iraq, and Western pol­i­cy­mak­ers turned their sights from the Cold War to glob­al­iza­tion and the strug­gle with Is­lamic mil­i­tancy.

An em­blem as much of the body’s most in­grained flaws as of its grand­est as­pi­ra­tions, Annan was the first sec­re­tary-gen­eral to be cho­sen from the in­ter­na­tional civil ser­vants who make up the U.N.’s bu­reau­cracy.

He was cred­ited with re­vi­tal­iz­ing its in­sti­tu­tions, craft­ing what he called a new “norm of hu­man­i­tar­ian in­ter­ven­tion,” and, not least, in per­suad­ing Wash­ing­ton to un­block ar­rears with­held be­cause of the pro­found mis­giv­ings about the body voiced by U.S. con­ser­va­tives.

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