Salzburg Global Seminar Pays Tribute to Kofi Annan

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Aug 20, 2018
by Salzburg Global Seminar
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Salzburg Global Seminar Pays Tribute to Kofi Annan

Salzburg Global reflects on the life of Kofi Annan, former secretary general, and Salzburg Global Fellow, following his death at the age of 80 Kofi Annan speaking at Salzburg Global Seminar in May 2008

Former United Nations (UN) secretary-general and Salzburg Global Fellow Kofi Annan has died at the age of 80.

In a statement announcing his death, the Kofi Annan Foundation and his family said Mr. Annan died on Saturday, August 18 after a short illness.

During his time as UN secretary-general, Mr. Annan sought to implement a comprehensive program of reform to revitalize the UN and make the international system more effective.

He was the first secretary-general to have emerged from the UN staff, having first joined the system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization.

A staunch advocate for human rights, Mr. Annan and the UN were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2001 “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.”

As part of a statement released by the Kofi Annan Foundation, his family said, “Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.”

In May 2008, Mr. Annan attended the Salzburg Global program, A “Green Revolution” in Africa: What Framework for Success? He visited in his role as chair of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. In an interview with Salzburg Global, Mr. Annan called for a “uniquely African green revolution” founded on “bold pro-poor policies” to address the food crisis facing Africa and the world.

Mr. Annan was also honorary president of Salzburg Global’s Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention series. In 2013, he wrote the foreword for a joint publication by Salzburg Global and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - Global Perspectives on Holocaust Education: Trends, Patterns, and Practices.

In this foreword, Mr. Annan said, “I am glad that the Seminar and the Museum together intend to continue their work, by helping to forge a worldwide community of Holocaust scholars and educators, and by conducting a series of case studies on international responses to recent genocides. This will help to shape more effective responses to such crises in future. I applaud their efforts, and hope that others will give them the support they need to carry out these tasks.”

Edward Mortimer, former chief program officer of Salzburg Global Seminar, served as Mr. Annan’s chief speechwriter and director of communications between 1998 and 2006 prior to arriving at Salzburg.

He said, “When I said goodbye to Kofi Annan in New York in December 2006, he thanked me for my work, and added, without prompting 'and I will come to Salzburg!' He was as good as his word - not only coming but bringing with him a major grant from the Gates Foundation, which enabled the Seminar to host the inaugural conference of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa in the spring of 2008.

“Later, when I was struggling to get the Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention program at Salzburg off the ground, I turned again to him for help - knowing his longstanding interest in those topics - and he responded not only by giving us invaluable public support but also by providing crucial seed money out of his own pocket.

"Both these actions were entirely characteristic of a man who cared profoundly about the future of humanity, was determined to help it in practical ways, and whose ideals corresponded closely with those of Salzburg Global Seminar."

Stephen Salyer, president of Salzburg Global Seminar, added: “Arriving exhausted from efforts to head off a potential civil war in Kenya, Kofi Annan lost no time in challenging those gathered in Salzburg to take action to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. He focused particularly on the role of women and argued for a strategy that would take fullest advantage of their capabilities in farming and marketing. 

"[While in Salzburg], he called the morning he was expected to depart and asked in his quiet, unassuming way if he and [his wife] Nane might stay on for a few more days. He explained that they had planned to relax at a nearby spa but they couldn’t imagine a more congenial and inspiring place to be than Schloss Leopoldskron. He became a beloved member of the Salzburg family who we will sorely miss."