We the Peoples
No institution has considered the extent of human conflict, survival, and aspirations as the United Nations. Throughout its history the UN has represented the nexus of events that define the modern world. During a lifetime dedicated to the service of this organization, Kofi Annan was present for all of these events, becoming directly involved in their outcomes during a decade as Secretary General. Interventions: A Life in War and Peace is his personal account of an extraordinary career as an international diplomat and an accomplished world leader.
This memoir fulfills many perspectives. For the student of history, it provides an accurate first-hand depiction of the people and places that were at the center of the headlines. For those involved in international relations, the descriptions and interpretations of positions taken by different parties offer valuable insights into the behaviours of both state and non-state actors. For citizens of any nation, this book will enlighten the reader with details that often extend beyond the official version of events.
As the title implies, Interventions is intended to open a discussion about the role of the United Nations in the contemporary world. The book delves precipitously into the responses of the international community to many different situations that arose from disparate causes. It offers no ready-made solutions to the conflicts and challenges that the world will continue to face in the years to come. Yet by examining the handling of past situations, it prepares us to meet those challenges more effectively and guides us to avoid the pitfalls that have resulted from inaction and a lack of international will.
Building upon the legacy established by his predecessors Dag Hammarskjold and U Thant, Kofi Annan made great strides towards restoring the United Nations Organization to its founding vision. Throughout his 44 year tenure at the UN, and under his leadership as Secretary General, Kofi Annan guided the organization through the treacherous political landscape that was very familiar to his predecessors, while strengthening its ability to meet the challenges of the future.
Kofi Annan is an alumnus of the International School of Geneva, having served on the Ecolint Board from 1981 to 1983. He also served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations International School in New York from 1987 to 1995. This commitment to education is shared by his very talented wife Nane, who has worked extensively throughout the world in support of the world's children.
In recognition of his life-long achievements in the cause of peace, Kofi Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 together with the United Nations Organization. In accepting the Nobel prize he spoke on behalf of his colleagues throughout the world who have devoted, and have often given their lives in the cause of peace. He noted that, while nations erect many monuments to wars, there are no monuments to peace. What the world does have is the Nobel Prize.
In pursuit of this vision, Kofi Annan places human beings at the center of his work, from conflict prevention to economic development to human rights. For him, real and lasting improvement in the lives of individuals is the measure of all that the United Nations Organization performs. Far from being simply an abstract notion, peace is a real and tangible state that ensures every human being a life of dignity and security in their daily existence.
The role he promotes for individual men and women to bring to bear upon nation states the responsibility for ensuring peace within, and between, nations is reflected in these excerpts from his Nobel Lecture:
This theme is reiterated during his frequent public appearances, both in formal settings and in public forums. At the January 2006 World Economic Forum in Davos Kofi Annan addressed the plenary session with a speech outlining the progress being made towards a "New Mindset for the United Nations."
The mindset that he seeks to change is one which views international relations as nothing more than relations between States, with the United Nations acting as little more than a trade union for governments. Instead, his goal is for the United Nations to chart a course for the organization that reflects the realities of the 21st century and to fulfill its mandate by engaging directly with the people of the world.
By cultivating contacts amongst a wide range of educators, private sector professions, individual citizens, and also with those actors who are less benign, Kofi Annan stresses the need to learn from their views and to encourage people to use their talents for the public good. This ultimately will help to transform all international organizations within the United Nations rubric to become more transparent and comprehensible to the public, and thereby more genuinely accountable.
In his final public address before leaving office, Kofi Annan points to five lessons that he learned during his 10 years as Secretary General: (1) Collective Responsibility, where the security of every one of us is linked to that of everyone else; (2) Global Solidarity, where we are not only all responsible for each other's security, we are also responsible for each other's welfare; (3) The Rule of Law, where both security and development ultimately depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law; (4) Mutual Accountability, where governments must be accountable for their actions in the international arena, as well as in the domestic one; and, (5) Multilateralism, where these lessons can be accomplished only by working together through a multilateral system.
He reflects upon the continuing threats to an open society from many sources, including poverty, disease, aggression, and crimes against humanity; threats which demand that global challenges be confronted through concerted action at all levels of civilization.