Commemoration for the late Mr. Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan was a remarkable advocate for a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.

Remarks by Mr. George Okutho, Director of the ILO Country Office for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan on the Commemoration for the late Mr. Kofi Annan, Former United Nation Secretary-General

Dear Professor Afework Kassa, State Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 

Madam Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I stand before you today to join you to celebrate the life of one of African’s great sons and an international leader who has been a remarkable advocate for a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.

The passing on of Mr. Annan is not only a loss to Ghana and the United Nations, but also to the world.

As we celebrate the life of this great leader, it is also time to briefly acknowledge the remarkable contributions he made to the United Nations during his time with us.

I know that much has already been said about Mr. Annan by the speakers before me and those whose lives have been touched and inspired by his works.  But for us in the United Nations Country Team, we deeply acknowledge his vision, commitment and determination to bring us as one UN family through pursuing a comprehensive reform immediately after taking office.

As the Ghanain proverb goes, “An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep” and Mr. Kofi Annan was the lion that led the UN in a number of battles.  This positive contribution for the good of all was recognized in 2001 this global leader, excellent diplomat and respected peace mediator was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with the UN.

Mr. Annan reformed the UN’s peacekeeping, human rights protection, and counter-terrorism efforts. He is also credited for initiating the “Delivering as One” approach that was aimed at a more effective, efficient, coherent, coordinated and better performing United Nations country presence to deliver sustainable solutions for countries.

Mr. Annan has also massively influenced all of us to have a clearer vision of a world free from poverty and hunger with universal education, better health, environmental sustainability, freedom, justice and equality for all through the adoption of the Millennium Declaration and development of the Millennium Development Goals.

The declaration represented an unprecedented consensus by world leaders on the major global challenges of the 21st century as well as a common commitment to meet these challenges. The MDGs not only stirred global dialogues on development but also garnered enormous support and investment that have hugely impacted the lives of billions of people and paved the way for our current and future development platform as Agenda 2030.

As an African, I am proud of him for taking this prestigious job and effectively leading this international institution with remarkable successes that transcend generations. His commitment to the continent has continued to be showcased until his last days. As a member of the UN family, I am also very proud that he is the only UNSG that was ascended to the top post from the ranks of UN staff through hard work and dedication.

Kofi Annan has lived a full life demonstrating his utmost dedication to world’s peace, justice, equality and unity. As the African proverb warns, “When an elder dies, a library is burned to the ground”, and is now up to us as leaders in the UN, government, civil society and others to make sure that the wisdom and lessons from Mr. Annan are used to continue on the battle to make the world a safe and prosperous home for all.

I thank you.


Speech by
George Okutho
Director of Country Office for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan
George Okutho
UN entities involved in this initiative
International Labor Organization