10 January 1997

Press Release


19970110 Biographical Note

Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations who was Under-Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations at the time of his appointment, brings to the position a wealth of experience and expertise gained through more than three decades of service with the world Organization. A national of Ghana who is fluent in English, French and several African languages, he was appointed on 17 December by the General Assembly to serve a term of office from 1 January 1997 through 31 December 2001.

Mr. Annan has had a remarkably varied United Nations career, focusing not only on questions of management -- administration, budget, finance and personnel -- but also refugee issues and peace-keeping. He has also carried out a number of sensitive diplomatic assignments, including negotiating the repatriation of over 900 international staff and the release of Western hostages in Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait in 1990; initiating discussions on the "oil-for-food" formula to ease the humanitarian crisis in Iraq; and overseeing the transition from the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in former Yugoslavia to the multinational Implementation Force (IFOR) led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) following the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement.

Complementing this strong grounding in management and in peace-keeping -- two areas of paramount importance to the future of the Organization at a critical juncture in its existence -- is the new Secretary-General's strong commitment to economic development and social justice. As he stated in an address to the General Assembly following his appointment, "a new understanding of peace and security must emerge". The world is beginning to recognize, he said, that conflict has many roots, that peace rests on economic and social stability, and that "intolerance, injustice and oppression -- and their consequences -- respect no national frontiers". Similarly, he continued, "we now know more than ever that sustainable economic development is not merely a matter of projects and statistics. It is, above all, a matter of people -- real people with basic needs: food, clothing, shelter and medical care".

* This supersedes Press Release BIO/3051 dated 13 December 1996.

As the first Secretary-General to emerge from the ranks of the international civil service, and having served in Addis Ababa, Cairo, Geneva, Ismailia (Egypt) and at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Mr. Annan also has intimate knowledge of the Organization's activities in the field, at the grass-roots level, as well as of the views of staff at all levels, at duty stations throughout the world.

United Nations Career

Most recently, from 1 March 1993 until his appointment as Secretary-General -- except for the period from 1 November 1995 to March 1996, when he served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia -- Mr. Annan served as Under-Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations, and for a year before that, as Assistant Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations. In these positions, he helped to formulate new approaches to the complex uncertainties of a post-cold-war world marked by unprecedented levels of international cooperation, as well as widespread strife fuelled by fierce assertions of national and ethnic identities. Throughout this volatile period, Mr. Annan worked to strengthen the capacity of the Organization to undertake both traditional peace-keeping missions and multifunctional operations, and to shoulder new tasks in the area of international peace and security such as "preventive deployment".

To cope with the dramatic growth in the number of operations -- 26 of the 41 operations in United Nations history have been mounted since 1989, the majority of them since 1993 -- Mr. Annan oversaw the creation of a "situation centre" that monitors United Nations peace-keeping operations around the clock. He also concentrated on enhancing the Organization's readiness for peace-keeping, canvassing Member States for commitments on "stand-by arrangements" for the provision of troops, equipment and other resources. As of 30 November 1996, 62 Member States had confirmed their willingness to provide stand-by resources totalling some 80,000 personnel.

Mr. Annan also worked with Member States to improve "response time" by taking steps towards the creation of a Rapidly Deployable Mission Headquarters, with earmarked Secretariat and other personnel, which is expected to be functional in early 1997. And to ensure that the lessons of peace-keeping experiences, successful and otherwise, are assimilated and applied, Mr. Annan created a "lessons learned" unit within the Department of Peace-keeping Operations. The unit's activities will soon be broadened to encompass lessons learned by other departments -- including the Departments of Political Affairs, Humanitarian Affairs, and Public Information -- in the area of peace and security.

As Secretary-General, Mr. Annan has also emphasized his commitment to engaging with Member States in a dialogue about the best possible use of the tools of peace-keeping, preventive diplomacy and post-conflict peace-building.

The Secretary-General's managerial portfolio is similarly extensive, and Mr. Annan has been deeply involved in the full range of questions now at the forefront of efforts to reform and streamline the Organization, a priority for which he expects to appoint a special adviser within his office. His United Nations postings in the management area include Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Budget and Finance and Controller (1990-1992); Assistant Secretary-General in the Office of Human Resources Management and Security Coordinator for the United Nations system (1987-1990); Director of Budget in the Office of Financial Services (1984-1987); Deputy Director of Administration and Head of Personnel at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva (1980-1983). His first assignment with the United Nations was in 1962 as an Administrative Officer and Budget Officer at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

As Secretary-General, Mr. Annan intends to place particular emphasis on achieving consensus among Member States on the role the United Nations should play in its many fields of endeavour. As he said in the press conference following his appointment, "We need to encourage Member States to develop the sustained will to support the Organization." Equally important, he added, is the need to "demystify the United Nations and not make it so bureaucratic and distant from the average person. We should bring the Organization closer to the people". Another one of Mr. Annan's principal priorities is to undertake major initiatives to resolve the Organization's financial crisis.

In addition to his regular posts, Mr. Annan has carried out a number of special assignments. From 1 November 1995 to March 1996, he served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia and, in this context, as Special Envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In this capacity, following the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in December 1995, he coordinated the United Nations role in achieving a smooth transition in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNPROFOR) to the NATO-led multinational Implementation Force (IFOR). He also supervised the establishment of the three successor peace-keeping operations in the former Yugoslavia.

In 1990, following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, Mr. Annan was sent by the Secretary-General to facilitate the repatriation of more than 900 international staff and to conduct negotiations for the release of Western hostages. While there, Mr. Annan helped focus attention on the plight of more than 500,000 Asians stranded in Iraq and Kuwait as a result of the hostilities. Subsequently, Mr. Annan was the first to encourage the Government of Iraq to discuss the sale of oil to fund purchases of humanitarian aid, and he led the first United Nations team negotiating with Iraq towards this end. That initiative has since borne fruit with the 1996 agreement between the Government of Iraq and the United Nations on implementation of the "oil-for-food" formula under Security Council resolution 986 (1995).

Apart from his official duties, Mr. Annan has long been involved in the areas of education and the welfare and protection of international staff. He has contributed to the work of the Appointment and Promotion Board and the Senior Review Group (both of which he chaired); to the Administrative, Management and Financial Board; to the Secretary-General's Task Force for Peace-keeping; and to the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. He also served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations International School in New York (1987-1995) and as a Governor of the International School in Geneva (1981-1983).

Background and Education

Mr. Annan studied at the University of Science and Technology at Kumasi, Ghana, and completed his undergraduate work in economics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota (1961). From 1961 to 1962, he undertook graduate studies in economics at the Institut universitaire des hautes ├ętudes internationales in Geneva. As a 1971-1972 Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he received a Master of Science degree in Management. In a two-year break from United Nations service from 1974 to 1976, Mr. Annan served as the Managing Director of the Ghana Tourist Development Company, serving concurrently on its Board and on the Ghana Tourist Control Board. Currently, the Secretary-General serves on the Board of Trustees of Macalester College, which in 1994 awarded him its Trustee Distinguished Service Award in honour of his service to the international community. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Institute for the Future, in Menlo Park, California.

Mr. Annan was born on 8 April 1938, in Kumasi, Ghana. He is married to Nane Annan, a lawyer who is now an artist. They have three children.

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For information media. Not an official record.