Kofi Annan, a Ghana-born diplomat who served as the first black African head of the United Nations, died at the age of 80 on Saturday.
According to family, Mr. Annan died peacefully in his sleep after a short illness.
“Kofi Annan was a global statesman and committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.”
“Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy. He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did,” a statement on Twitter read.
Annan served as secretary general of the intergovernmental organization for two terms, from 1997–2006.
A career diplomat, Annan served with the U.N. from 1962 until he retired in 2006. Joining the World Health Organization in 1962, Annan held various positions overseeing U.N. planning, budget and finance, and control. He eventually rose to lead the organization’s peacekeeping operations in 1993.
Elevated to secretary general in 1997, Annan set forth on an ambitious reform program for the U.N., overhauling the bureaucracy and developing a new leadership body. As head of the U.N., Annan instituted plans to reduce cost, and build alliances with private interests to advance U.N. goals.
As secretary general, Annan shifted the organizations focus to emphasize human rights, the fight against infectious disease and poverty.
Despite his leadership, Annan’s tenure at the U.N. was not without controversy. In 2004, Annan was faced with the “Oil-for-Food” scandal in which Iraq evaded sanctions imposed upon it by obtaining food, medicine and other humanitarian items in exchange for oil on world markets.
A final probe exonerated Annan, but blasted the U.N. for “lax” oversight.
Annan and the U.N. were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for the joint effort of rejuvenating the organization and promoting human rights.
After departing the United Nations, Annan established the Kofi Annan Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to global cooperation.
Annan is survived by a wife, Nane Lagergren, and three children.
[AP] [The Guardian]