Monday, 8 October 2012

Kofi Annan Appeals for Interventions

It's not everyday that you have the chance to be in the same room as Kofi Annan, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been at the forefront of major diplomatic challenges facing the international community and who spends most of his time travelling around the world. 

Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan speaking at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

He is renowned for his service to the United Nations during the past four decades and particularly for his ten-year role as Secretary-General. As a former BBC World Service producer, I have always admired him, he has always the bigger picture in mind and a precious good heart. 

"I wish for a world in which men and women of every nation achieve a measure of dignity and opportunity in their individual lives that allows each of them to serve others, and to stand up to the forces of injustice and inequality wherever they exist - in other words, to intervene." Kofi Annan 

He starts his new book Interventions, a Life in War and Peace with a series of questions about our world worth reflecting upon. Speaking at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Annan appealed to bright young people to follow politics and to all of us to have a dynamic relationship with politicians and put pressure on them to do what is right. 

Kofi Annan's new book
Kofi Annan's new book

Referring to the Iraq war, which features prominently in his book, he said: "I did what I could to prevent the war. If we allow governments to go to war without valid motives, it will be the law of the jungle. It should be up to the security council to decide."   

Regarding the current conflict in Syria, he said "the only way to go is to seek a political setting. Divisions are normal in all human endeavours but the challenge is to come together", defending Iran should also be at the negotiation table due to its influence in the country. 

"Behind the velvet tones of Kofi Annan's dulcet Ghanaian voice, there's a fearsome and fearless iron will, intent on finding solutions to some of the world's biggest problems." Bono

He also defended the reform of the United Nations: "the world has changed and the UN needs to adapt, serving not only states but also peoples, becoming a forum where governments are held accountable for their behaviour toward their own citizens." 

Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan
Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan

When UN proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, Mahatma Gandhi remarked this would not help humanity. "This is a declaration of only rights, there's no mention of duty and responsibility. In the absence of duty and responsibility how can rights be protected?" 

It's very clear he was right if you think of how many countries are committing a gross violation of human rights and how powerless UN resolutions have been when it comes to make a difference on the ground. 

As someone once said at one of the United Nations cultural offices in New York: "nations can never be united. If you want unity, you have to give up the sense of nationhood and nationalism." As Annan also remarked "there are issues without passport that concern us all." 

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