Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the UNA-UK Public Event on Our Shared Humanity: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Kofi Annan, at Central Hall Westminster, London, today:
Lord [Mark] Malloch-Brown, dear friends, I am delighted to join you in paying tribute to someone who was an inspiration to us all. It is appropriate that we gather in Central Hall Westminster � this place where United Nations history was made to honour an individual who himself made so much United Nations history.
I see so many good friends and colleagues in the audience. Kofi’s magnetism lives on in bringing us all together. It is nearly a year since the shocking news of Kofi’s passing hit us. Across that time, we have gathered in Ghana, Geneva, New York and elsewhere to recognize his contributions.
We all have our memories, whether or not one knew him personally. My last such memory is of one of his last endeavours � a visit to his beloved home continent. His first stop was Johannesburg, to join in marking the centennial of Madiba’s birth. I am told it was a cold day, barely above freezing � but the crowd was warmed by Kofi’s presence as they marched together in honour of Mandela’s own long walk to freedom. I watched from afar as Kofi went next to Harare, where he, Mary Robinson and Graca Machel and the rest of the Elders sought to support the people of Zimbabwe on the eve of critical elections, a key step in their democratic transition.
During the visit, I understand, he spent extra time with young Zimbabweans, talking not only about their broad aspirations for democracy and prosperity, but also about the nitty gritty practicalities of constitutional order, effective institutions and good governance. By all reports, those young people were inspired by Kofi � an encounter made even more poignant when they realized, less than a month later, that they had been among the last to enjoy Kofi’s power and personality in full bloom.
There is a common arc to many careers � commitment, action, rest. Kofi did everything but rest. His dynamic decade as Secretary-General by itself would have earned him the right to relax. Yet, barely missing a beat after the end of his tenure, he became one of the Elders and went on to lead that group in diplomatic trouble-shooting across the world.
Across the decade to follow, he helped to calm tensions following election-related violence in Kenya, negotiated a communique that is still the primary basis for resolving the conflict in Syria, and put forward a set of recommendations that point the way towards addressing the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar. People are safer and more hopeful because of Kofi’s efforts. And in everything he did, he highlighted the role of civil society, stressed the centrality of human rights and underscored the importance of the role of women and youth.
These should be touchstones for all that we do. As we strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, let us recall the remarkable advances under the previous framework, the Millennium Development Goals, which were articulated on Kofi’s watch and Mark’s supervision � and which proved the value of setting precise targets as a rallying point for the world.
At a time when hatred and divisive voices are on the rise, let us recall Kofi’s commitment to defending our common humanity and never, ever being a bystander in the face of human suffering. And at this moment when we see the impacts of climate change growing more and more severe, let us remember that even during his term, he warned us that � and I quote � we are plundering our children’s future.
I feel a deep personal and professional connection with our late leader. We were comrades in the search for a better world and a better Africa. We were united in our belief for a stronger United Nations that today is ever more relevant. And I am convinced that Kofi’s life journey can continue to guide and inspire the work to which all of us in this room, in one way or another, are so strongly committed.
Like him, we must always be realistic � but we must always retain hope, reaching for the impossible. We must be smart, but never cynical. We have much to celebrate as a human family. Despite headwinds, we should draw encouragement from many broad trends of human well-being. We must see every challenge as an opportunity to bring solutions to the table, never giving up. We have much to build on � including the legacy of the remarkable person we remember today.
Source: United Nations