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Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a ’rock star of diplomacy,’ dies at 80
Kofi Annan, one of the world’s most celebrated diplomats and a charismatic symbol of the United Nations who rose through its ranks to become the first black African secretary-general, has died. He was 80.
His foundation announced his death in Switzerland on Saturday in a tweet, saying he died after a short unspecified illness.
Kofi Atta Annan was born April 8, 1938, into an elite family in Kumasi, Ghana, the son of a provincial governor and grandson of two tribal chiefs.
Annan spent virtually his entire career as an administrator in the United Nations. His aristocratic style, cool-tempered elegance and political savvy helped guide his ascent to become its seventh secretary-general, and the first hired from within. He served two terms, from Jan. 1, 1997, to Dec. 31, 2006, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the U.N. in 2001.
During his tenure, Annan presided over some of the worst failures and scandals at the world body during one of its most turbulent periods since its founding in 1945. Challenges from the outset forced him to spend much of his time struggling to restore the U.N.’s tarnished reputation.
His enduring moral prestige remained largely undented, however, both through charisma and by virtue of having negotiated with most of the powers in the world.
When he departed from the United Nations, he left behind a global organization far more aggressively engaged in peacekeeping and fighting poverty, setting the framework for the U.N.’s 21st-century response to mass atrocities and its emphasis on human rights and development.
Even out of office, Annan never completely left the U.N. orbit. He returned in special roles, including as the U.N.-Arab League’s special envoy to Syria in 2012. He remained a powerful advocate for global causes through his eponymous foundation.