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Annan, Kofi

in full Kofi Atta Annan

(born April 8, 1938, Kumasi, Gold Coast [now Ghana]) Ghanaian international civil servant who in 1997 became the seventh secretary-general of the United Nations (UN). He was the corecipient, with the United Nations, of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2001.

Annan, whose father was governor of Asante province and a hereditary paramount chief of the Fante people, studied at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi before enrolling at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S., where he received a bachelor's degree in economics. He continued his studies at the Institute for Advanced International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. He earned a master's degree while a Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States in 1971–72.

Annan began his career with the UN as a budget officer for the World Health Organization in Geneva in 1962. With the exception of a brief stint as the director of tourism in Ghana (1974–76), he spent his entire career with the UN, serving in several administrative posts. On March 1, 1993, he was elevated to undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations. In that position, he distinguished himself during the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly in his graceful handling of the transition of peacekeeping operations from UN forces to NATO forces.

Because Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Annan's predecessor as secretary-general, had alienated some member nations—most notably the United States—with his independent and aloof style, Annan entered office with the tasks of repairing relations with the United States and reforming the UN bureaucracy. Soon after becoming secretary-general, he introduced a reform plan that sought to reduce the organization's budget and streamline its operations, moves that were welcomed by the United States. Other priorities included restoring public confidence in the UN, combating the AIDS virus, especially in Africa, and ending human rights abuses. In 2001 he was appointed to a second term.

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