EU leaders mourn Kofi Annan

Written by Martin Banks on 20 August 2018 in News

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has joined with other EU leaders in paying glowing tribute to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, whose death was announced at the weekend.

Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

The Ghanaian died following a short illness. He was born in 1938 and first entered the United Nations system in 1962 as an officer for the World Health Organisation before working his way up to the headquarters in New York.

As Secretary General, one of Annan'’s main priorities was a comprehensive programme of reform aimed at revitalising the UN and making the international system more effective.

He was a constant advocate for human rights, the rule of law, the Millennium Development Goals and Africa, and sought to bring the UN closer to the global public by forging ties with civil society, the private sector and other partners.

Annan was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace, jointly with the UN.

Leading the tributes, Juncker said, “It was with deep sadness that I learnt of the passing of my old friend and inspiration, Kofi Annan. On behalf of myself and the European Commission, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to his wife Nane and his entire family.

“Today, the world mourns a great leader and humanitarian but celebrates a life full of courage, empathy and remarkable public service. He devoted his life to making the world a more peaceful and united place. He fought to end suffering and injustices across the world and helped to rebuild bridges where they had been destroyed. I am honoured to have seen this first-hand on many occasions throughout the many years we worked together.”

Juncker went on, “His achievements as UN Secretary General were rightly recognised with the Nobel Peace Prize and many other accolades throughout his life. But the greatest recognition we can give Kofi Annan is to keep his legacy and his spirit alive. It has never been more important than in today's world.”

His comments were endorsed by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who said, “We all mourn the loss of one of the greatest men of our times: with the passing of Kofi Annan, Ghana, Africa and the entire world lost a true humanitarian who dedicated his life to defending peace and human rights.

“A laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize and Secretary General of the United Nations for two consecutive mandates, Kofi Annan was a staunch supporter of multilateralism and fought against racism, social exclusion and intolerance, including in his engagement as Chair of The Elders group.

“There is no other way we can truly pay tribute to his legacy than by reasserting our collective and firm commitment to keep defending these very same ideals.”

She added, “I’ve had the pleasure and the honour to meet him often in the last years and to cooperate with him. He’s been supportive of the European Union’s engagement on different files, including the work to preserve the Iran nuclear deal. On behalf of the European Union, I convey my most sincere condolences to his family, the Government of Ghana, the United Nations and The Elders group.”

Elsewhere, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “We will never forget his calm and resolute gaze, nor the strength of his struggle.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Annan was a “great leader and reformer of the UN.”

She added, “He made a huge contribution to making the world he has left a better place than the one he was born into. My thoughts and condolences are with his family.”

Describing Annan as a great peace builder, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said that with his passing, the world has lost “a most staunch supporter of the rule-based international order.”

Polish President Andrej Duda said, “It was with great regret that I received information about the death Kofi Annan. In our memory he will remain as a person who worked tirelessly to protect human rights and improve living conditions in Africa.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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