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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Kofi Annan: A Man of Distinction

Kofi Annan was a man driven not by greed or a lust for power but by a genuine desire to make the world a better place.

He was Secretary General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2007, and he died on 18th August at the age of 80.

Born an Anglican and educated in Ghana, the USA, and Geneva, Annan worked over 30 years at the UN before being elected Secretary General of an organisation whose limitations had recently been exposed by the horrors of Rwanda and Bosnia.

Annan was a man whose life embodied the primary goal of the UN: ‘to maintain international peace and security’. In 2000, by persuading every member state to sign up to the Millennium Development Goals to fight poverty, hunger, and disease, he began to offer a solution to ‘international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting… respect for human rights… for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion’.

Less successful, however, were Annan’s attempts at peace-making or peace-keeping. Hampered by the structure of the UN, and particularly by the role of the irremediably divided Security Council, as well as by flaws in his own judgment, ‘he left office’, according to The Times’ obituary, ‘reviled by the USA, leaving an organisation weakened by its own irrelevance over Iraq and impotence over Darfur’.

How should we assess this man? Jeffrey Sachs, author of The End of Poverty (2005), and for years Annan’s close colleague, wrote on Monday: ‘In Jewish tradition, there are at all times 36 tzadikim, righteous people, without whom the world would perish. Kofi Annan was one of the righteous people, a man of extraordinary intelligence, warmth, and joy of life. He helped to keep our world from blowing itself apart or dividing mercilessly between the rich and the poor.’

In a world where high office can often be inextricably tied up with greed and a lust for power, Annan’s life stands as a beacon of selfless commitment. Indeed, instead of retiring to a mansion in the Caribbean, to the end of his life Annan was working to improve the lot of Africa’s farmers. What an example for Christians!

Considering Annan, I am reminded of Professor Higgins’ lament in My Fair Lady, ‘why can’t a woman be more like a man?’ to which I echo, ‘why can’t world leaders be more like Kofi Annan?’ Or ‘more like Jesus Christ’?


Helen Parry
Helen taught in African universities for 20 years and, from 1985 to 2016, was a voluntary member of staff at LICC.


  1. Thank you, Helen. He was truly both man and woman,

    By Ralph O. Cobham  -  24 Aug 2018
  2. I really appreciate the LICC and all it brings to contemporary life as I endeavour to walk with Jesus daily. It is so good to hear of fellow followers who have held high office with such distinction.
    I am a little puzzled by the comment “born an Anglican” and am trying to reflect on what that phrase is conveying. Perhaps I should just move on and focus on the bigger picture which was really heart warming, particularly in an increasingly polarised world. Or perhaps I should say “a world where vested interests are increasingly attempting to polarise society”. This polarisation seems to be the antithesis of what Kofi Annan’s life work was about.

    By Stephen Courtney  -  24 Aug 2018
  3. Amen. Sister.

    By Gary Stacey  -  24 Aug 2018
  4. How can one be “born an Anglican”? Perhaps you mean he was born into a family who were Anglicans?

    He was no doubt influenced by his Christian upbringing to the benefit of everything he stood for.

    By Robert Randall  -  24 Aug 2018
  5. The anthem of his Methodist School, Mfantsipim, Ghana is: For all the saints who from their labours rest…” Amen

    By Ken Todd  -  24 Aug 2018
  6. Thanks, Helen…so good to see you still writing and would love to see more! And thanks for your perspective on Kofi Annan.

    By Gary Nielsen  -  24 Aug 2018
  7. Born an Anglican ???

    By Lynda Hall  -  25 Aug 2018

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