Global Perspectives | Bericht | 30. August 2018

Kofi Annan’s Death: Global Youth must continue the Legacy of Kofi Annan

by Dr. Ingrid Hamm and Nadine Bütow

He dedicated his life to serving the global community. With passion and uninterrupted optimism, he fought for peace, human dignity and equality. His weapons were education, knowledge and diplomatic talent. Kofi Annan passed away on August 18, 2018. His legacy must be preserved and continued. The youth can play a key role in this regard.

“A humanitarian interventionist,” headlined the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The Deutsche Welle described him as a ‘gentle mediator between the worlds’. The world mourns the loss of a man who was the first black African at the head of the United Nations to spend nearly all of his professional life in the service of the Organization, and who embodied their mission like no other.



Kofi Annan fostered partnerships for a fairer world. Even after his time as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997-2006), the Nobel Peace Prize laureate became involved in world affairs. Conflicts and wars could never deceive his faith in humanity. The Ghanaian diplomat used his moral authority and tremendous empathy to appeal to the conscience of the world, tirelessly. He did so until the end with a steady hand, irrefutable integrity and outstanding kindness.

“Kofi Annan protected us from our worst instincts” (Jeffrey Sachs)
The economist and Special Adviser for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Jeffrey D. Sachs captured just how deeply the loss of Kofi Annan has hit the world. In his CNN opinion piece, he wrote: “In every generation, we rely on people of the highest propriety and intelligence to keep the world together. Kofi Annan was one of the righteous people, a man of extraordinary intelligence, decency, warmth, and zest for life. He helped the world not to diverge or mercilessly divide between rich and poor.”

“The youth is our most precious asset, it is our future” (Kofi Annan, 2001)
Annan viewed the youth as a driving force for change in the world – a force that bears the solutions the people need most. The speech he held in February 2018 as part of the Munich Security Conference in front of students at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), which we were allowed to organize together with TUM, remains unforgettable. Under the title “Visions for Challenged Democracies – Towards a Fairer, More Peaceful World”, he called on students to be vigilant in the use and consumption of content on social media. The positive potential of social media that led to the upheavals in the Arab world in 2011, for example, has also led to new media providing the means for self-empowerment of authoritarian governments. “Social media has become a battleground for manipulating political debate,” Annan said. They are echoing hatred, discrimination and Fake News.



“You are never too young to lead” (Kofi Annan, 2018)
In addition to big tech corporations, he also reminded young people of their responsibility to self-critically analyze the sources of news. “Do not believe everything you hear! Do not believe everything you read!” Instead, he placed importance on finding the dialogue whilst looking for the truth, to listen and to give room for other opinions. The pluralism of opinions is the basis of a healthy democracy. It needs a tough, sometimes unpleasant debate. He recognized the potential of the youth and saw in it those pioneers who can lead the fight against anti-democratic developments on the internet. “You are never too young to lead,” he encouraged in his speech.


Recording of Kofi Annan's speech from February 2018 (TUM Speakers Series: "Visions for Challenged Democracies – Towards a Fairer, more Peaceful World")


“Kofi Annan has inspired and protected us – all too often before our worst instincts and erroneous judgments,” concludes Jeffrey Sachs in his article. “He taught us the inestimable value of diplomacy, the art of finding common ground by listening and respecting others. There has been no finer practitioner of such upright decency in our time.”

Annan is the spiritual father of the UN Millennium Development Goals, which were supplemented in 2015 by the 17 unanimously adopted Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He leaves a hole and cannot be replaced. In the age of globalization, it is the youth, above all, who can take on and preserve his legacy. Above all else, real change requires a strong political will.


Dr. Ingrid Hamm on Kofi Annan's legacy

Dr. Ingrid Hamm on Kofi Annan's legacy

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  • Nadine Bütow, Public Relations Global Perspectives Initiative
  • Dr. Ingrid Hamm, Co-Founder and CEO Global Perspectives Initiative

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Nadine Bütow, Public Relations

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