Kofi Annan, We the Peoples: A UN for the 21st Century (Routledge, 2014)

During his momentous time as Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan played a decisive role in launching the Millennium Development Goals, establishing the International Criminal Court, and articulating the Responsibility to Protect as a guiding principle for international action. In 2001–just after the attacks of 9/11–he and the UN jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.” These and other crucial events—including the crises over Kosovo and East Timor, and the war in Iraq–are encapsulated in this book of Kofi Annan’s key speeches throughout his term of office. These highlights have been carefully selected, edited, and introduced to give a broad view of Annan’s most pressing concerns—and the eloquence with which he addressed them. Covering subjects from development, health, and climate change to the prevention of genocide and the ideal of diversity, these statements show how deeply involved the UN was in the most important issues of the era. In them, Annan poignantly addresses not just political leaders and diplomats, but the individuals he considers emblematic of the dilemmas the world faces—the young girl born in Afghanistan on the day Annan accepted the Nobel Peace Prize; the child soldier in Sierra Leone; and every one of the 23 members of what he calls “the UN family” killed by a truck bomb in Iraq. Separate chapters on Africa and the Middle East reveal Annan’s special concern with some of the world’s biggest challenges, ongoing in an era of crises in Syria, Egypt, and beyond.

Since leaving the UN, Kofi Annan has established his own Foundation in Geneva and serves as Chairman of the the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Elders and the Africa Progress Panel. He received the very first MacArthur Award for International Justice; mediated a political settlement to end the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008; served as Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League for Syria (2012); and published a widely reviewed book, Interventions: A Life in War and Peace. These and other activities have confirmed his role as an influential global actor beyond his time at the UN. This book reminds us how his ideas and priorities were incubated and, indeed, proclaimed. His words on war, peace, humanity, and “man’s inhumanity to man” still resonate in many ways—and offer many pointers for maintaining and developing the UN as a vital instrument for humanity in the coming decades.

  • An introduction to the book surveys the role of the Secretary-General and Kofi Annan’s unique experiences and contributions while in office.
  • Context-setting pieces for every chapter and speech place events in history and remind us why they were important.
  • Explanatory notes to the text identify unfamiliar players, define terms, and otherwise add to our understanding.
  • Photos highlight the major subjects covered by the chapters: Development, economics, and civil society; peace and security; human rights; peacekeeping and peacebuilding; the prevention of genocide; the ideal of diversity; Africa; and the Middle East.