Kofi Annan, the well-respected former Secretary-General of the United Nations who also won a Nobel Peace Prize, died Saturday after a short illness. He was 80 years old.
His family and the Kofi Annan Foundation confirmed his death via Twitter and said he was surrounded by his wife and their three children in his last days.
“It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness,” the announcement read. “His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days.”
“Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.”
Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana in 1938. After attending the Graduate Institute in Geneva, he began his career at the U.N. in 1962 as a Budget Officer for the World Health Organization.
He briefly returned to Ghana from 1974-1976 and served as the Director of Tourism during that time. He returned to Geneva—and the U.N.—in 1980, serving as Head of Personnel in the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva (UNHCR).
He married his wife, Swedish lawyer Nane Lagergren, in 1984.
He continued to make his way through the ranks at the U.N., being appointed Assistant Secretary-General in Human Resources Management, and Security Coordinator in 1987, followed by an appointment as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations in 1993.
In 1997, he succeeded the Egyptian Boutros Boutros-Ghali and was appointed the 7th Secretary General of the United Nations at 59 years old. He was the first Secretary General to rise through the ranks of the U.N.
In 2001, Kofi Annan and the United Nations were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with Annan being praised for being “pre-eminent in bringing new life to the organization.”
Annan’s career at the U.N. ended in 2006 with a speech delivered to world leaders gathered at the U.N. headquarters in New York City. He established the Kofi Annan Foundation a year later in 2007, “with the aim of mobilising political will to overcome threats to peace, development and human rights.” The organization is located in Geneva, Switzerland.
For the remainder of his life, he continued his quest to make the world a better place.
Rest in power, Mr. Annan.