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The man who was UNO personified

The man who was UNO personified

Kofi Annan, the first black African to lead the United Nations, stood for all that the organisation exemplified. He served as Secretary-General at a time when worries about the Cold War were replaced by threats of global terrorism and his efforts to combat those threats and secure a more peaceful world stood out. Born in Ghana in 1938, he served as the seventh UN Secretary-General, from 1997 to 2006, and was the first to rise from within the ranks of the United Nations staff. He had also been a member, since 2007, of The Elders, a humanitarian group of a dozen leaders and activists of worldwide stature formed by Nelson Mandela. In 2013, Annan became its chairman. He was, indeed, a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer, 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. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the United Nations in 2001 "for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world." Despite his many achievements, Annan's record was not unblemished. He was head of the United Nations' peacekeeping operations in 1994 when many perished in the Rwanda genocide and in 1995 when so many Muslim men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica. Annan would later say what unfolded in Rwanda and in Srebrenica had reshaped his global thinking. Kofi Annan devoted his life to making the world a more peaceful place through his compassion and dedication to service.

Indeed, he was humanity's best example, the epitome of human decency and grace. In a world now filled with leaders who are anything but that, the world's loss becomes even more painful. Interestingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Annan's efforts to build the United Nations' peacekeeping potential. "I was lucky to personally interact with Kofi Annan. I have been in genuine awe of his wisdom and courage, of his ability to make informed decisions even in the most difficult, critical situations," he said. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the world had lost "a conscience keeper of international peace and security." Annan joined the United Nations in 1962 as a low-ranking officer with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. His first term as Secretary General was highly-rated but his second term, which coincided with the US invasion of Iraq, was not as smooth. Former US President Barack Obama said Annan embodied the very mission of the United Nations. In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all.

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