Chatham House: UNDEF remembers Kofi Annan and democracy


UNDEF Executive Head Annika Savill chaired a session of a Chatham House conference in June 2019 on the legacy of Kofi Annan, who passed away in August 2018. Panellists included Raila Odinga, Kenya's former Prime Minister. Listening in the foreground of the above photo are Kofi Annan's widow, Nane Annan, and his two children, Kojo and Ama.  


Annika Savill, who served as a speechwriter to Secretary-General Annan from 1997 to 2006, recalled that he used to say “No one is born a good citizen, no country is born a democracy. Both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime.” Kofi Annan’s own approach for democracy, too, continued to evolve over his lifetime. Already in 1999, he issued a prescient warning. Unless the benefits of globalization were shared more fairly, all the "isms" of the 20th century would come parading back – the “isms” that exploit the insecurity and misery of people who feel victimized by the global market: protectionism; populism; authoritarianism; nationalism; ethnic chauvinism; fanaticism; and terrorism. The more there are wretched people, the more those "isms" would continue to gain ground.


In 2000, Kofi Annan started sounding the alarm about what he called "fig-leaf democracy", where democratic rule is maintained in name only, while in reality authoritarian government has taken over. After completing his term, he developed a passion for electoral integrity again, not only in itself, but also as an entry point into good governance, national dialogue and peacebuilding, starting with his work on Kenya’s post-election peace process and then founding two global commissions on electoral integrity.  Throughout his leadership, Kofi Annan was committed to the rights of women and girls, and people living with HIV/AIDS.