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Ceremony in the honour of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

27 September 2018
Ceremony in the honour of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

Ceremony in the honour of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Thursday, 27 September 2018, 10.00
Assembly Hall, Palais des Nations


Dear Nane, Anna, Kojo, Nina and family,
Très chers amis et collègues,
Excellences,
Mesdames et messieurs,

Nous sommes ici réunis aujourd’hui pour rendre hommage à Kofi Annan, pour partager nos souvenirs, ses souvenirs, et par-dessus tout, pour célébrer la vie, et l’héritage de l’un des plus grands à avoir jamais diriger les Nations Unies.

J’ai côtoyé Kofi Annan pendant près de 40 ans. Je l’ai vu gravir les échelons ; j’ai été témoin – parfois de près, parfois de loin – de son travail ; je me suis tourné vers lui pour des conseils, souvent, et j’ai appris de lui, toujours. Pour moi, pour nous, il était le dirigeant pour lequel nous étions dévoués corps et âme ; le mentor auprès duquel nous pouvions toujours trouver conseil ; et l’ami auprès de qui nous étions fiers de nous tenir.

Depuis sa soudaine disparition, deux sentiments se sont emparés de moi. Plus que tout autre, la tristesse et la douleur de sa perte. Et tous ensemble ici, nous constituons tous la famille de Kofi Annan, et nous sommes unis dans notre chagrin.

J’ai également ressenti une immense reconnaissance. Reconnaissance d’avoir eu la chance de le connaître. Reconnaissance de tout ce qu’il a pu entreprendre. Son héritage est infini - et son influence l’est, je crois, tout autant. De fait, nous pouvons déjà nous rendre compte de cela aujourd’hui. Pensez aux centaines d’hommages rendus à travers le monde - pensez à la façon dont ils ont levé la voile sur la valeur des Nations Unies. Pensez encore à la façon dont ils ont mis en lumière la nécessité de faire perdurer ce soutien sans faille au multilatéralisme.

Dear friends,

I haven’t met anyone who, upon meeting Kofi Annan, was not charmed by his charisma, awed by his intellect, and touched by his warmth. He was just that kind of person. And no matter whether you were a world leader or junior staff member: he was who he always was - kind and wise, compassionate and inspiring.

But reflecting on his legacy reveals more, much more.

Kofi Annan was the visionary who led us into the 21st century. Things that today are at the core of what the United Nations is and does originated in his foresight and came to fruition through his actions.

Indeed, his extraordinary ability to translate his vision into powerful action is the very foundation of his legacy.

He was an early and committed fellow gender champion and the first to put in practice the insight that we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.

“Human rights are at the centre of everything we do.” Today it’s a self-evident statement. Except that it was not - not until he came along. It is the result of his efforts to strengthen the UN’s role as promoter of development and guardian of human rights. It is the result of his mantra that the three - peace, prosperity and human rights - are inextricably linked; that you cannot have one without the others.

Or consider how he opened up the UN, bringing it closer to the world’s people and engaging new partners. At a time when many still saw states as the only actors on the diplomatic stage, he saw the opportunities in the increasing power of civil society and the need for working with the private sector.

His fight against HIV/AIDS is one strong example of how he translated insight into impact. What started with his call for a “war chest” at a summit in Abuja led to the creation of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that we would have ever agreed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without the path he paved for us, starting with his ground-breaking report “We the Peoples” in 2000.

The upshot of his actions was not abstract. It can be counted in millions of lives saved.

And he did all this not by being a starry-eyed idealist, but because he was a masterful, shrewd tactician.

He liked to quote the African proverb that since “you cannot bend the wind, you should bend the sail.” And that is what he did better than anyone I’ve ever known.

Throughout his career at the UN and beyond, with the Kofi Annan Foundation, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Africa Progress Panel, and The Elders, he always stayed ahead of the curve. He embraced change, and - by skilfully bending the sail - shaped it to improve the fate of humanity.

His incisive foresight, superb judgement and astute skill to put vision into practice - those were crucial ingredients for his success. But there were other elements just as vital.

His wife Nane and his children, who were an immense source of strength to him and who continue to generously share him with us. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.

One of the things I will miss most of all is his infectious optimism: The source, I believe, of his uncanny ability to quietly lead people to achieve what they themselves never thought possible.

The inspiration and courage he gave us - to the young above all - will outlast him. Because even if his shoes may be too big for any one of us to fill, we will carry on following in his footsteps.

This is why I have asked Hager Alsharif to close our ceremony today. She is one of the 10 young leaders brought together by the Kofi Annan Foundation to fight violent extremism. Her inspiring work is a powerful illustration of the many seen and unseen ways in which Kofi Annan’s legacy lives on in future generations.

And while this gives me solace, I also know that we will painfully feel his absence in a world that needs him - his moral voice, his calming influence, his ability to bring people together - now more than ever.

Chers amis,

Dans un monde de plus en plus fragmenté, où seuls ceux qui crient le plus fort sont entendus, l’absence de sa voix - douce et convaincante – laisse un silence assourdissant.

Dans un monde où beaucoup de dirigeants réagissent impulsivement et même aveuglement, l’absence de son leadership - responsable et raisonné, au service de la réussite collective et non de l’action individuelle – laisse un vide immense.

Un vide particulièrement notoire ici à Genève. Car bien qu’il fût fils dévoué et fier de l’Afrique, il était aussi citoyen genevois. Il y a étudié et travaillé. Il a choisi d’y passer ses dernières années. Il aimait Genève, la ville qui lui doit beaucoup et pour laquelle il a fait beaucoup.

Je vous remercie d’être venus et je vous souhaite à toutes et tous de trouver espoir et réconfort à travers l’héritage qu’il laisse derrière lui.

Je laisse maintenant la parole à Ahmad Fawzi - mon ami cher et collègue de toujours - qui va nous guider pour le reste de la cérémonie.

Merci. Thank you.