20 August 2018

Kofi Annan: we will miss a great leader and humanist

It is with immense sadness that we learned of the passing away of Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, on Saturday 18 August after a short illness. 

The loss of a man who has worked tirelessly for peace in very difficult conditions is being deeply felt by all those who care about the need for international cooperation in a world of rising challenges.

Kofi Annan was an alumnus and long-standing friend of the Graduate Institute, and his spirit and elegance won him our hearts. He was dear to our community not only for what he achieved and symbolised as a global statesman, but as an illustration of what motivates and inspires many of our students.

At the time of Kofi Annan's application to the Institute in 1961, the president of Macalester College (St Paul, Minnesota), where he was studying for his BA, wrote a letter of recommendation strongly emphasising his human qualities and the leadership position he had acquired among his fellow students. 

In his letter of motivation to the Institute, Kofi Annan wrote: “I have chosen to come to Geneva for two definite reasons. Firstly, Geneva is an international city and could serve as a laboratory where I could observe international politics in play. Secondly, my admission to the Institute would enable me to learn and polish my poor French.” (His intention at the time was to work with the UN Economic Commission for Africa or the diplomatic service of Ghana.)

With the support of his foundation, Kofi Annan chose to celebrate his 80th birthday last April by participating in a BBC HARDTalk interview at the Institute. In December 2017 he also announced the move of his other foundation to Africa in an event which reflected on the ten years of the Africa Progress Panel.

On behalf of the Graduate Institute, I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Nane, as well as his family and relatives.

Lire l'hommage de Carlos Lopes, ancien secrétaire exécutif de la Commission économique de l’ONU pour l’Afrique et membre du Conseil de fondation de l'Institut.