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Adieu, Kofi Annan
The good, the bad and the ugly of the outgoing U.N. Secretary General
Amin George Forji (amingeorge)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-01 19:20 (KST)   
As the New Year emerges, so does a new era begin for the world governing body, the United Nations (U.N.), whose Secretary General, Kofi Annan will be stepping down to give room to the South Korean diplomat Ban Ki-moon as the new world's top administrator. The Ghanaian-born Annan assumed office on Jan. 1st, 1997 as the seventh Secretary General of the organization, becoming the first person from a black African nation to act in that capacity.

Replacing another African, Egyptian born Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Annan was expected to serve just one term, in accordance with the body's informal policy of rotating the post amongst all the continents, with each serving two terms. However, Annan was deemed to have performed so excellently during his tenure of office that members of U.N. General Assembly in an unusual deviation unanimously decided to conduct him for another five-year term, beginning on Jan. 1st, 2002. But all was not bed of roses for Annan.

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His second term was perhaps the most difficult for any secretary general yet. With the American-led "war on terror," with its so-called "preemptive strike doctrine," being fought in total disregard of any authorization from the U.N., Annan and the U.N. had no choice but to sit and watch the unfolding of events.

Two major scandals also rocked the organization during his second term, namely corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program that operated in Saddam Hussein's Iraq 1996-2003, and uncountable reports of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers the world over.

So, how will Annan be remembered?

Annan's Legacy: The Good

Although the U.N. since its creation has been seen as a toothless bulldog, Annan during his 10-year tenure took a lot of interesting measures to strengthen the efficiency of the organization. In 2005, Annan proposed to member states sweeping reforms that if endorsed would have made the organization more effective. The recommendations included a proposal to enlarge the Security Council and redefining the rules on authorization of use of force, as well as an agreed definition of terrorism. With member states largely disagreeing to agree on major issues, things remained almost at a standstill. Whether the measures would have worked or not may be another story, but the intention in itself was a good precedent.

The sweeping reforms aside, Annan throughout his two terms strongly advocated for human rights and the rule of law -- a move that won him much respect globally. In fact, in 2001, he together with the U.N. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for championing the promotion and protection of human rights and development, and "for bringing new life to the organization."

As Lee Feinstein, a U.N. expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, said of Annan,
"His greatest accomplishment was to set a framework that moved the U.N. from one century to the next, the response to mass atrocities, the central role of democracy, the importance of human rights, and a priority to development.
He also spoke consistently about the humanitarian situation in Darfur, and pushed world leaders to intervene to stop the atrocities.

His greatest achievement is perhaps the doctrine of "humanitarian intervention," which he introduced to bring governments and leaders massacring their own people to account. Despite resistance from some countries, 191 states ended up endorsing what is now known as the "the responsibility to protect," in 2005.

He also fought against poverty, and the ambitious Millennium Development Goals under his tenure sought to cut global poverty by half by 2015.

The Bad & the Ugly

On the negative side, Annan will also be remembered for the corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program. The U.N. actually reached its lowest point in 2004, when there were almost daily attacks on the corruption allegations, reports of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers, as well as cases of bribery by officials of the U.N.

Annan's own son, Kojo Annan, was implicated in the oil for food scandal, said to have received the sum of $300,000 as a bribery package from the Swiss company Cotecna, which was responsible for inspection in the Iraqi oil-for-food contract.

By and large, Annan's dream felt short of materializing to reality. The sweeping reforms he dreamt of never saw the light day; meanwhile, the world, as in 1994 during the Rwanda genocide, is still seen wanting in the current Darfur crises.

Despite his open criticism, Annan was unable to constrain the U.S. and its allies from launching the second gulf war. As Annan himself described it, the so-called war on terror, especially concerning the war in Iraq, completely disregarded multilateralism and human rights, fostering the doctrine of unilateralism or "go it alone" policy.

Although the U.N. can today boast of added strength in fighting poverty, a lot nevertheless still has to be done. Its reputation is still in shambles as a toothless bulldog, that can bark but cannot bite.

Parting Remarks

Annan says he will remain committed to the issues of the U.N., even after his tenure. When delivering his farewell speech on Dec. 12, he said he has become part and parcel of the organization. "You can take the man out of the U.N., but you can't take the U.N. out of the man," said Annan.

Annan may be right, but it is his past that will definitely determine his legacy, not his future. Before he could hand over the gavel, he made one last recommendation in his farewell speech: that a multilateral approach should be adopted to solving world crises.

"How can states hold each other to account? Only through multilateral institutions. So my final lesson is that those institutions must be organized in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong," said Annan.

As Ban Ki-Moon steps into Annan's shoes, the most to say to Mr. Annan is congrats for the good job and adieu.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Amin George Forji

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