Lessons from Kofi Annan

From the Washington Post comes this message from Kofi Annan, who will leave his post as secretary general of the United Nations on December 31st. The article is based on an address he gave yesterday at the Truman Presidential Museum & Library in Independence, Mo. He says “All my life since has been a learning experience. Now I want to pass on five lessons I have learned during 10 years as secretary general of the United Nations that I believe the community of nations needs to learn as it confronts the challenges of the 21st century.” The entire article is appropriate reading for this reflective season.

  1. In today’s world we are all responsible for each other’s security.
  2. We are also responsible for each other’s welfare.
  3. Both security and prosperity depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law.
  4. Governments must be accountable for their actions, in the international as well as the domestic arena.
  5. Multilateral institutions through which states hold each other to account must be organized in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong.

. . . and in the same article he also says that nearly 50 years ago when he arrived in Minnesota as a student fresh from Africa he learned that “there is nothing wimpish about wearing earmuffs when it is 15 degrees below zero.”