Kofi Annan

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Kofi Annan : biography

8 April 1938 – living

During the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Annan called on the United States and the United Kingdom not to invade without the support of the United Nations. In a September 2004 interview on the BBC, when questioned about the legal authority for the invasion, Annan said he believed it was not in conformity with the UN charter and was illegal.

Annan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad disagreed sharply on Iran’s nuclear program, on an Iranian exhibition of cartoons mocking the Holocaust, and on the then upcoming International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust, an Iranian Holocaust denial conference in 2006. During a visit to Iran instigated by continued Iranian uranium enrichment, Annan said "I think the tragedy of the Holocaust is an undeniable historical fact and we should really accept that fact and teach people what happened in World War II and ensure it is never repeated."

Annan supported sending a UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur, Sudan. He worked with the government of Sudan to accept a transfer of power from the African Union peacekeeping mission to a UN one. Annan also worked with several Arab and Muslim countries on women’s rights and other topics.

Beginning in 1998, Annan convened an annual UN "Security Council Retreat" with the 15 States’ representatives of the Council. It was held at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) Conference Center at the Rockefeller family estate at Pocantico, and was sponsored by both the RBF and the UN.

Lubbers sexual-harassment investigation

In June 2004, Annan was given a copy of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report on the complaint brought by four women workers against Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees for sexual harassment, abuse of authority, and retaliation. The report also reviewed a long-serving staff member’s allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Werner Blatter, Director of UNHCR Personnel. The investigation found Lubbers guilty of sexual harassment; no mention was made publicly of the other charge against a senior official, or two subsequent complaints filed later that year. In the course of the official investigation, Lubbers wrote a letter which some considered was a threat to the female worker who had brought the charges. On 15 July 2004, Annan cleared Lubbers of the accusations, saying they were not substantial enough legally. His decision held until November 2004. When the OIOS issued its annual report to the UN General Assembly, it stated that it had found Lubbers guilty of sexual harassment. These events were widely reported and weakened Annan’s influence.

On 17 November 2004, Annan accepted an OIOS report clearing Dileep Nair, UN Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, of political corruption and sexual harassment charges. Some UN staff in New York disagreed with this conclusion, leading to extended debate on 19 November.

The internal UNn-OIOS report on Lubbers was leaked, and sections accompanied by an article by Kate Holt were published in a British newspaper. In February 2005, he resigned as head of the UN refugee agency. Lubbers said he wanted to relieve political pressure on Annan., The Age, 21 February 2005

Oil-for-Food scandal

In December 2004, reports surfaced that the Secretary-General’s son Kojo Annan received payments from the Swiss company Cotecna Inspection SA, which had won a lucrative contract under the UN Oil-for-Food Program. Kofi Annan called for an investigation to look into the allegations.

Annan appointed the Independent Inquiry Committee, which was led by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, then the director of the United Nations Association of the US. In his first interview with the Inquiry Committee, Annan denied having had a meeting with Cotecna. Later in the inquiry, he recalled that he had met with Cotecna’s chief executive Elie-Georges Massey twice. In a final report issued on 27 October, the committee found insufficient evidence to indict Kofi Annan on any illegal actions, but did find fault with Benon Sevan, a Cypriot national who had worked for the UN for about 40 years. Appointed by Annan to the Oil-For-Food role, Sevan repeatedly asked Iraqis for allocations of oil to the African Middle East Petroleum Company. Sevan’s behavior was "ethically improper", Volcker said to reporters. Sevan repeatedly denied the charges and argued that he was being made a "scapegoat". The Volcker report was highly critical of the UN management structure and the Security Council oversight. It strongly recommended a new position be established of Chief Operating Officer (COO), to handle the fiscal and administrative responsibilities than under the Secretary General’s office. The report listed the companies, both Western and Middle Eastern, that benefited illegally from the program.