On October 18, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in a discussion of his life and work on behalf of world stability and human rights. The event marked the recent release of his memoir, Interventions: A Life in War and Peace (Penguin Press, 2012). Co-recipient of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, Annan served two terms as U.N. secretary general beginning in 1997, the first sub-Saharan African to hold that position in the U.N.’s history. In his memoir, Annan reflects on his successes and the challenges he faced during his 40 years at the United Nations, and makes a strong case for the U.N.’s continued relevance in the decades ahead.
Annan held a number of positions at the U.N., including as assistant secretary general for peacekeeping operations during the Rwandan and Bosnia genocides. As secretary general, Annan shepherded a new international doctrine known as the “Responsibility to Protect,” which places a moral obligation on states to protect their citizens while also pressing major powers to ensure that the use of force in any conflict is legitimate. Having stepped down as U.N. secretary general in 2006, Annan was named the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria earlier this year, taking on the difficult task of ending that violent conflict.
Brookings President Strobe Talbott introduced Mr. Annan and moderated a discussion focusing on Mr. Annan’s work at the United Nations and his ongoing efforts to establish peace and protect human life and dignity. After the program, Mr. Annan took audience questions.