Saying goodbye to Kofi Annan

Incredibly sad day to wake up to the news that the wonderful Kofi Annan is no longer with us.

Kofi was an extraordinary individual who committed his life to guiding the world to a better place. I, and the rest of the advisors to The Elders and The Elders themselves, had the honour of watching him at work through his chairmanship of the group. He took over the job of running the Elders in 2013 from Archbishop Tutu and then before him, Nelson Mandela. Even in retirement, he didn’t show any signs of slowing down. He put his mastery of quiet diplomacy to good use for the causes he was passionate about. He guided The Elders for many years; resolving conflict, speaking out on issues like climate change and warning the world against extremism. As a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, he advocated for an end to the failed war on drugs, seeing its devastating impacts around the world, including in Africa.

Kofi was a wonderful listener. He rarely spoke unless he had something important to say and then everyone in the room would strain to hear his thoughtful words. Always soft-spoken, yet determined and principled, he became the world’s top diplomat, a champion of humanity who restored the UN’s moral authority at a critical time in its history. The 2001 Nobel Peace Prize was a well-deserved recognition of his leadership and his unwavering commitment to humanity’s shared values.

He was also a dedicated family man, with a delightful wife Nane, who is as extraordinary as the man himself. Peter Gabriel and I surprised him at his 80th birthday only a few weeks ago in Switzerland, and all The Elders and advisors joined him in South Africa to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s centenary, where he was on great form.

I always felt deeply humbled in his company. There are not many giants left in this world that the world can look up – Kofi was one of them. He was a champion of humanity and a peacemaker, who really did care for everybody. He fought for the rights of the individual, whatever situation they found themselves in.

The world will be a poorer place without him. It’s up to all of us to step up and help fill the gap that he’s left behind. 

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