Kofi Atta Annan (pron.: / /; born 8 April 1938) is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006. Annan and the United Nations were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize for his founding of theGlobal AIDS and Health Fund to support developing countries in their struggle to care for their people.
From 23 February until 31 August 2012, Annan was the UN–Arab League Joint Special Representative for  Syria, to help find a resolution to ongoing conflict there. Annan quit after becoming frustrated with the UN’s lack of progress with regard to conflict resolution, stating that “when the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council.”
Early years and education
Kofi Annan was born in Kumasi in the Gold Coast on 8 April 1938. His twin sister Efua Ataa, who died in 1991, shares the middle name Atta, which inFante and Akan means ‘twin’. Annan and his sister were born into one of the country’s aristocratic families; both their grandfathers and their uncle were tribal chiefs.
In the Akan names tradition, some children are named according to the day of the week on which they were born, and/or in relation to how many children precede them. Kofi in Akan is the name that corresponds with Friday.
Pronunciation: Annan has said his surname rhymes with “cannon” in English.
From 1954 to 1957, Annan attended the elite Mfantsipim school, a Methodist boarding school in Cape Coast founded in the 1870s. Annan has said that the school taught him “that suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere”. In 1957, the year Annan graduated from Mfantsipim, the Gold Coast gained independence from Britain and began using the name “Ghana”.
In 1958, Annan began studying economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology of Ghana. He received a Ford Foundation grant, enabling him to complete his undergraduate studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States, in 1961. Annan then did a DEA degree in International Relations at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1961–62. After some years of work experience, he studied at the MIT Sloan School of Management (1971–72) in theSloan Fellows program and earned a Master of Science (M.S.) degree.
In 1962, Kofi Annan started working as a Budget Officer for the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations (UN). From 1974 to 1976, he worked as the Director of Tourism in Ghana. In the late 1980s, Annan returned to work for the UN, where he was appointed as an Assistant Secretary-General in three consecutive positions: Human Resources, Management and Security Coordinator (1987–1990); Program Planning, Budget and Finance, and Controller (1990–1992); and Peacekeeping Operations (March 1993 – December 1996).
The Rwandan Genocide took place in 1994 while Annan directed UN Peacekeeping Operations. In 2003 Canadian ex-General Roméo Dallaire, who was force commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, claimed that Annan was overly passive in his response to the imminent genocide. In his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda(2003), General Dallaire asserted that Annan held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict, and from providing more logistical and material support. Dallaire claimed that Annan failed to provide responses to his repeated faxes asking for access to a weapons depository; such weapons could have helped Dallaire defend the endangered Tutsis. In 2004, ten years after the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed, Annan said, “I could and should have done more to sound the alarm and rally support.”
Annan served as Under-Secretary-General from March 1994 to October 1995. He was appointed a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia, serving for five months before returning to his duties as Under-Secretary-General in April 1996.
Secretary-General of the United Nations
On 13 December 1996, the United Nations Security Council recommended Annan to replace the previous Secretary-General, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, whose second term faced the veto of the United States. Confirmed four days later by the vote of the General Assembly, he started his first term as Secretary-General on 1 January 1997.