USCIB members and friends around the world were saddened by the passing of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who died on August 18 at age 80. Annan’s two terms as head of the UN were marked by intense conflict – but also optimism about the world’s ability to overcome divisions and promote shared goals and values.
“Kofi Annan was a consummate diplomat and global statesman,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson. “We can honor his legacy by continuing to strive toward the goals he championed so passionately: peace, collective security, economic and social development, and a commitment to ensure that all oars are in the water, moving together toward a common future.”
Overlooked in some accounts of Annan’s legacy was recognition for his work in establishing strong bonds with the private sector, in support of the UN as an institution and in driving the world toward ambitious goals for economic and social betterment. He championed the Millennium Development Goals, and he urged the UN – which carried a legacy of sometimes severe criticism of the private sector – to work more closely with business.
Annan put these sentiments on display when he spoke at USCIB’s International Leadership Award Dinner in 2003, which honored Charles O. Holliday, Jr., then the chairman and CEO of DuPont, who used the occasion to make a strong pitch for business support of the UN Global Compact, Annan’s initiative to secure private-sector support to advance international human rights, environmental protection and related goals.
Speaking just a few months after the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq without a mandate from the UN Security Council, the secretary general declared that the UN was at “a fork in the road, with one path leading toward true revitalization and effectiveness, the other toward disappointment and despair.”
Annan urged the business community to stay engaged as the UN undertakes to reinvigorate its efforts to promote peace and stability around the world. “It would be unthinkable for the private sector not to be closely involved, both in policy-making discussions here at headquarters, and in projects on the ground,” he said.