The Elders

Chair of The Elders

You have to be open as a leader, willing to listen. A leader need not always be right; a good leader is also a good follower.

Former UN Secretary-General

I remain convinced that the United Nations belongs not only to the governments of its Member States but above all to their peoples, in whose name it was founded. That means that it must become more democratic by ensuring that all the world's peoples, and not only the richest and the most powerful, have a voice and also that those who make the decisions genuinely represent their peoples and are accountable to them.

International conflict mediator

Today's real borders are not between nations, but between powerful and powerless, free and fettered, privileged and humiliated. Today, no walls can separate humanitarian or human rights crises in one part of the world from national crises in another.

Advocate for Africa

If there is one area which, above all, will determine the direction of Africa’s future, it is the quality of its governance and leadership.

Kofi Annan biography

Former UN Secretary-General, Nobel Peace Laureate and Chair of The Elders; put development, human rights, the rule of law, good governance and peace at the top of the United Nations agenda.
  • Chair of The Elders
  • United Nations Secretary-General 1997-2006
  • Initiated the Millennium Development Goals
  • Played a central role in the acceptance by Member States of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine
  • Nobel Peace Laureate (jointly with the UN) 2001
  • UN/Arab League Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis 2012
"No one can deprive us of the right, as concerned global citizens, to want to do something about the challenges that face us."
  • Work with The Elders

    Kofi Annan has been a member of The Elders since its founding in 2007, succeeding Desmond Tutu as Chair in May 2013.

    He helped focus the world’s attention on Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis in November 2008 in a high-profile visit to the region with Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel. The following year he and the Elders persuaded international donors to expand humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe.

    In late April 2011, following months of post-election violence, Mr Annan, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu travelled to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to encourage reconciliation. After meeting President Ouattara, civil society representatives, members of the opposition and people who had fled their homes in the fighting, he warned that much of Ivorian society remained polarised and stressed that the new government’s role was to ensure the safety and security of all Ivorians.

    Between February and August 2012 Kofi Annan temporarily recused himself as a member of The Elders during his UN and Arab League assignment as Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis.

  • Reforming the United Nations

    Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations and the first to emerge from the ranks of UN staff. A constant advocate for human rights, development and the rule of law, he revitalised the UN, bringing it closer to the public by forging ties with civil society, the private sector and other partners.

    At his initiative, the Millennium Development Goals were introduced in 2000, creating for the first time a global blueprint to end poverty. Mr Annan also oversaw the strengthening of UN peacekeeping to cope with a rapid rise in the number of operations and personnel, and the establishment in 2005 of two new intergovernmental bodies: the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council.

    Mr Annan played a central role in the creation of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the adoption of the UN’s first-ever counter-terrorism strategy, and the acceptance by Member States of the ‘responsibility to protect’ people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity when their own states fail to do so. His Global Compact initiative, launched in 1999, has become the world’s largest effort to promote corporate social responsibility.

    In 2001, Kofi Annan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace jointly with the United Nations "for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world."

  • Diplomacy and conflict mediation

    As UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan undertook wide-ranging diplomatic initiatives. In 1998, he helped ease the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria. Also that year, his efforts helped avoid an outbreak of hostilities in Iraq following an impasse between the country and the UN Security Council over compliance with resolutions on weapons inspections and other matters.

    In 1999, he was deeply involved in the process by which Timor-Leste gained independence from Indonesia. He was responsible for certifying Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and in 2006 his efforts contributed to securing a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah. That year he also mediated a settlement between Cameroon and Nigeria during their dispute over the Bakassi peninsula.

    Mr Annan continues to use his experience to mediate and resolve conflict. In Kenya, in early 2008, he led the African Union’s Panel of Eminent African Personalities to mediate a peaceful resolution to the post-election violence. Most recently he served as the UN/Arab League Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis, between February and August 2012.

  • Advocate for Africa

    Since leaving the United Nations, Kofi Annan has continued to advocate for better policies to meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly in Africa.

    In 2007 he established the Kofi Annan Foundation, which works to promote better global governance and strengthen the capacities of people and countries to achieve a fairer, more secure world.

    He also chairs the Africa Progress Panel, which tracks and encourages sustained development across the African continent; the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, an organisation that works to promote rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers in Africa; and is a Board Member, Patron or Honorary Member of a number of organisations.

View all articles by Kofi Annan

Nelson Mandela

(1918-2013) Founder

Former President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Laureate; a leader who dedicated his life to the anti-apartheid struggle, democracy and equality; founder of The Elders.

Martti Ahtisaari

Former President of Finland; Nobel Peace Laureate and expert in international peace mediation, diplomacy and post-conflict state building.

Kofi Annan

Chair of The Elders

Former UN Secretary-General, Nobel Peace Laureate and Chair of The Elders; put development, human rights, the rule of law, good governance and peace at the top of the United Nations agenda.

Ela Bhatt

The ‘gentle revolutionary’; a pioneer in women’s empowerment and grassroots development, founder of the more than 1 million-strong Self-Employed Women’s Association in India.

Lakhdar Brahimi

Former Algerian freedom fighter, Foreign Minister, conflict mediator and UN diplomat; an expert in peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction.

Gro Harlem Brundtland

Deputy Chair of The Elders

First woman Prime Minister of Norway and Deputy Chair of The Elders; a medical doctor who champions health as a human right; put sustainable development on the international agenda.

Fernando H Cardoso

Former President of Brazil; implemented major land reform programme, reduced poverty and significantly improved health and education; an acclaimed sociologist and global advocate for drug policy reform.

Jimmy Carter

Former President of the United States, Nobel Peace Laureate and veteran peace negotiator; dedicated to advancing peace, democracy and health worldwide.

Hina Jilani

Pioneering lawyer and pro-democracy campaigner; a leading activist in Pakistan's women's movement and international champion of human rights.

Graça Machel

International advocate for women’s and children's rights; former freedom fighter and first Education Minister of Mozambique.

Mary Robinson

First woman President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; a passionate, forceful advocate for gender equality, women’s participation in peace-building and human dignity.

Desmond Tutu

Honorary Elder

Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Nobel Peace Laureate and Honorary Elder; a veteran anti-apartheid activist and peace campaigner widely regarded as ‘South Africa’s moral conscience’.

Ernesto Zedillo

Former President of Mexico who led profound democratic and social reforms; economist and advocate of multilateralism, inclusive globalisation, nuclear non-proliferation and drug policy reform.

The Elders are independent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

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