2nd Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 73rd Session

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21-Sep-2018 02:00:02
Honouring Kofi Annan, General Assembly remembers late Secretary-General as monumental leader, moral voice who fought brutality, bloodshed at 2nd plenary meeting.

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Paying homage to the late Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who passed away on 18 August, Member States, colleagues and family convened in the General Assembly today to remember him as a child of Africa, the first and only United Nations chief to rise through the ranks of the Secretariat, and a leader who steered the Organization during some of its most troubling times.

The Assembly began by observing a minute of silence in honour of Mr. Annan. Speakers then shared memories and stories of having known and worked with him, recalling a Secretary-General who led the Organization into a new millennium and steered it through difficult times as its relevance was being challenged, all the while trusting that the United Nations remained the “last best hope of humanity”.

“He was family”, said Secretary-General António Guterres, recalling Mr. Annan’s individual brilliance and knack for multilateralism.

The late Secretary-General was a man with a moral voice fighting against brutality and bloodshed who “burned with the flame of human rights, dignity and justice”. Mr. Annan mobilized a global response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, saving millions of lives and articulating the Millennium Development Goals. He was well-known for his warmth, accessibility and principled approach to battling for United Nations values. “He would be the first to describe any achievements as the product of teamwork”, Mr. Guterres added.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said Mr. Annan will be remembered as a great leader of the Organization, who worked for peace, security and human rights. Through the Millennium Development Goals, Mr. Annan pushed for boys and girls to have equal access to education and fought against the scourges of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Citing his talent for quiet diplomacy, she recalled his skill at motivating private corporations such as pharmaceutical companies to join the fight to advance global health.

Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he believes Mr. Annan will be proven by history to have been a monumental leader, a humble man with an illuminating vision for humanity’s collective future. His remarkable legacy will endure forever.

Several Member States representing groups of countries also paid respect to the late Secretary-General, with Madagascar’s delegate, on behalf of the African States, underscoring Mr. Annan’s pursuit of equity, justice and peace. Since the beginning of his “exceptional life”, Mr. Annan demonstrated the desire to contribute to breaking the world from poverty. “He worked tirelessly, particularly by beginning the process to transform our Organization”, she said.

Sri Lanka’s delegate, on behalf of the Asia-Pacific Group, said Mr. Annan’s work led to the creation of the Millennium Development Goals — which served as a foundation for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The delegate from the Bahamas, on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, said Mr. Annan used his vast experience to reform the culture of the United Nations to make it beneficial for its staff, its Member States and the people of the world.

The representative of the United States said Mr. Annan inspired a whole generation, adding: “It’s no exaggeration to say Kofi Annan embodied the United Nations”.

Annan Cato (Ghana), speaking on behalf of President Nana Akufo-Addo, said Mr. Annan was committed to the dignity and solidarity of humanity and devoted his life to making peace and defending human rights. He also expressed hope that Mr. Annan’s footprints will serve as a guiding light for generations.

Mary Robinson was among several former colleagues who shared stories of what it was like to work with Mr. Annan, as she recalled that he believed passionately in the United Nations and “stood up for it as a proud father”.

Tasa Delenda, former member of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, recalled that Mr. Annan believed in hard work, made staff comfortable and treated all as equals.

Iqbal Riza, Mr. Annan’s former Under-Secretary-General and Chef de Cabinet, recalled how Mr. Annan moved swiftly and surely to bring far-reaching changes. Under Mr. Annan’s leadership, the Organization opened its doors to new constituencies, such as academia and the private sector. The late Secretary-General’s first term was crowned by the Nobel Peace Prize, and his second was marked by “a sea of troubles”, including the September 11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Still, Mr. Annan prevailed, he said.

Members of Secretary Annan’s direct family also took to the podium, with Nane Annan recalling the radiant warmth and joy of a man — a husband — who wanted a peaceful world for all. He was known for his persuasive powers, talent for thinking outside the box and his special connection to young people.

Kojo Annan described his father’s humble roots in Kumasi, Ghana, and his rise to become Secretary-General. His father’s code was the Edmund Burke quotation that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Mr. Annan said his father would urge all to fight the good fight.
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