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UN Secretary-General Annan Has Long Diplomatic History

By Dan McGuire
News Editor

Kofi A. Annan SM 72, the seventh secretary-general of the United Nations and this year's Commencement speaker, has led a remarkably intriguing life. His studies have brought him from his home in Ghana to St. Paul, Minnesota, Geneva, Switzerland, and to MIT.

After a year at MIT as a Sloan Fellow, Annan graduated from MIT in 1972 with a master's degree in management. Annan worked his way up through the ranks of the international civil service to hold important positions in the United Nations, overseeing offices in both the administrative side of the UN and in the organization's peace keeping operations.

In the former Yugoslavia, Annan supervised the change from the United Nations-led Protection force to the NATO-led Implementation Force in accordance with the 1995 Dayton peace agreement.

Annan also negotiated the release of more than 900 international staff and Western hostages held in Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He also initiated discussions on the "oil-for-food" formula to ease the recent humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

Most recently, Annan served as under-secretary-general for peace-keeping operations, overseeing them during a time of explosive growth in UN-mediated compromises and international cooperation. Twenty-six of the 41 peace-keeping operations organized by the UN during its existence have been undertaken since 1989.

Annan has also been involved in the day-to-day administrative operations of the United Nations. His served as the assistant secretary-general for program planning, budget, and finance, as the assistant secretary-general for human resources management and as the security coordinator for the United Nations system.

Annan was born in Ghana in 1938 and attended the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. He completed his undergraduate work at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, graduating in 1961 with a degree in economics. He pursued graduate courses at the Institut universitaire des hautes studes internationales in Geneva before coming to MIT in 1971.