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Kofi Annan’s ‘Life In War And Peace’ at the UN

Kofi Annan’s ‘Life In War And Peace’ at the UN

By Rickey Singh | Fri, January 18, 2013 - 12:01 AM

THIS, BASICALLY is the narrative of “Interventions”, a must-read book that belongs in every serious library. In it Kofi Annan eloquently articulates the strengths and weaknesses of the United Nations; painfully reminds us of the threats to humanity across continents and points to the double-speak and contradictions of some of the world’s most powerful nations.

The internationally hailed diplomat, who served two terms (January 1997 to December 2006) as Secretary General of the United Nations, shares in Interventions: A Life In War And Peace, very revealing, at times  even personally hurtful moments, in his distinguished career to avoid conflicts and promote peaceful, people-focused development.

Former world leaders like George W Bush and Tony Blair may not be amused by some of his observations of anguished moments shared – for instance on the invasion of Iraq.

However, all governments committed to peace; reforming of global governance; restoring the rule of law;  ending recurring wars in Africa and conflicts in the Middle East; redefining “human security” and combating poverty would be interested in Kofi Annan’s assessments of the world he served as UN Secretary General and his hopes, as “a realist” for the future.  

The first Secretary General to emerge from the ranks of world body’s staff, the Ghana-born Annan leaves no doubts in his 381-page book, co-edited with Nader Mousavizadeh, one of his much respected UN colleagues, of a deep commitment to people-centered development and without indulging in any self-promotion.

He reminds us that throughout his time with the UN – spanning some four decades, with the last ten as Secretary General – how he sought to match the “unique authority of the United Nations as the sole, truly universal organization of states with the credibility of seeing that rights were defended; suffering alleviated and; lives saved…”. And in discussing, for instance, the role of Washington in the war on Iraq, Annan argues: If the infamous 9/11 terroristic strikes against the US “changed the world, the consequences of the Iraq War (led by the US) were of a similarly dramatic magnitude… From the Arab nations, appalled by the mayhem unleashed following the fall of Saddam, to  the deep distrust among UN Security Council members bruised by the tortuous negotiations in the run-up to the war, to the growing isolation of a United States no longer as feared or respected. What the United States had lost, as a consequence of the invasion, was the benefit of the doubt….”

This development, he said, “pained me deeply”, since “throughout my years as Secretary General, I had often found myself in the role of global interpreter, explaining the United States to the world, and the world to the United States…

Annan contends that despite the singular contribution of the United States to the UN’s founding and its mission in the decades that followed, after Iraq, America was too often unwilling to listen and the world unable to speak its true mind…” 

• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist. Email

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