Kofi Atta Annan (born 8 April 1938) is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the United Nations were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.” He is the founder and the Chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, as well as being the chairman of The Elders, a group founded by Nelson Mandela.

From 23 February until 31 August 2012, Annan was the UN–Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, to help find a resolution to ongoing conflict there. Annan quit after becoming frustrated with the UN’s lack of progress with regard to conflict resolution, stating that “when the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council”. He has been involved in several humanitarian projects and won several awards including the Kora All Africa Music Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.

In 1962, Kofi Annan started working as a Budget Officer for the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations (UN). From 1974 to 1976, he worked as the Director of Tourism in Ghana. In 1980 he became the head of personnel for the office of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. In 1983 he became the director of administrative management services of the UN Secretariat in New York. In the late 1980s, Annan was appointed as an Assistant Secretary-General of the UN in three consecutive positions: Human Resources, Management and Security Coordinator (1987–1990); Program Planning, Budget and Finance, and Controller (1990–1992); and Peacekeeping Operations (March 1993 – December 1996).

When Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali established the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in 1992, Annan was appointed to the new department as Deputy to then Under Secretary-General Marrick Goulding. Annan was subsequently appointed to succeed Goulding and assumed the office of USG DPKO in March 1993. He was therefore Head of peacekeeping during the battle of Somalia and the resulting collapse of the UNOSOM II peacekeeping mission, and during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.

In 2003 Canadian ex-General Roméo Dallaire, who was force commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, claimed that Annan was overly passive in his response to the imminent genocide. In his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (2003), General Dallaire asserted that Annan held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict, and from providing more logistical and material support. Dallaire claimed that Annan failed to provide responses to his repeated faxes asking for access to a weapons depository; such weapons could have helped Dallaire defend the endangered Tutsis. In 2004, ten years after the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed, Annan said, “I could and should have done more to sound the alarm and rally support.”

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