Roosevelt Island Friends, Neighbors And United Nations Colleagues Honor UN Secretary General And Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Kofi Annan With Tribute Plaque Placed In Front Of Former Island House Home

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who died in 2018 at 80 years of age, was a long time Roosevelt Island
resident. He lived at Island House from 1978 until he became UN Secretary
General in 1997.

On Monday, May 24, 2021, friend, neighbors and colleagues gathered together on
Main Street in front of a small Island House Garden to unveil a Tribute
Plaque  honoring
Kofi Annan.

Suren Shahinyan, an Island House resident and United Nations colleague hosted
the gathering honoring Kofi Annan and said:

….I think we are all proud today because we’re part of the history. We’re
making history. We have been neighbors and colleagues of a man who has been
a world icon for peace, for development and the man who lived a very
distinguished, but simple life. Today we’ll be speaking of him as a neighbor
and as a man that we knew.

We can speak volumes of course of Kofi Annan’s career, a  distinguished
career for the diplomat. He was the seventh Secretary General of the
UN.  He was the only Secretary General who grew from the ranks. As I
said he came as young as we were when I came on the Island. Unfortunately i
didn’t have a chance to live with him on the island because he left and I
came afterwards. I  can maybe recall one incident when I met him here.
Maybe this was one of his last works. It was end of 1996, he became the
Secretary General from January 1997 and he stayed for two terms which is
December 2007…

 …I found a young colleague who lived here and we were on the Tram
and that UN colleague just pointed to a man who was very humbly simply
standing in the corner and he said watch this man, he’s going to be the next
Secretary General….

Here’s the Island House tribute to their neighbor, UN Secretary General Kofi

Island House neighbor and United Nations colleague Georg Kell was among those
who spoke during the Tribute Plaque Unveiling and he urged those who gathered
to read the August 2018 obituary he wrote in memory of Kofi Annan to learn
more about the man.
According to Mr Kell:

A great son of Africa and a true global leader has passed away. Kofi
Annan, United Nations secretary general from 1997 to 2006 and
co-recipient, with the UN, of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, is being
mourned and remembered with great affection all over the world. He was
the conscience of humanity, endowed with the ability to inspire millions
of people across cultures, religions and nations to support the good
causes of the United Nations – peace, human rights and sustainable
development. Kofi Annan’s unique leadership capabilities, his humility
and decency, his compassion and his humor will always be remembered by
those who had the privilege of working with him. As last great reformer
of the United Nations, he managed to modernize its bureaucracy in
critical areas such as women empowerment and global health.

Annan is mostly remembered for the role he played on the political stage
and for the events that shaped the first decade of our century,
especially the invasion of Iraq. He did not hesitate to speak truth to
power and he silently –abandoned by many around him – endured the
consequence: a very ugly personal smear campaign that wrongly accused
him of corruption. But even during these dark months he would not
abandon his faith in the ideas of the United Nations.

Kofi Annan
was one of the greatest diplomats in history. Yet his legacy will endure
in another area as well. As a pragmatist and modernizer, Kofi Annan was
tirelessly striving to overcome old ideologies. Early on, he embraced
the idea of opening up the United Nations to the people, to civil
society and to the private sector which was, up until his appointment as
secretary general in 1997, largely hostile to the organization.  

the sunny afternoon of January 29, 1999, at the World Economic Forum in
Davos, Switzerland, Kofi Annan spoke to hundreds of business
executives: “I propose that you, the business leaders…and we the United
Nations initiate a Global Compact of shared values and principles, which
will give a human face to the global market.” Every word of this speech
sank into the minds of those present. And with this “speech act,” Kofi
Annan planted the seeds for the modern corporate sustainability
movement. The call was heard all over the world. Over the subsequent
years, business leaders and civil society from Argentina to Canada, from
South Africa to Iceland and from Lebanon to China would form “local
networks,” informed by universal principles, to change business
practices. Numerous business leaders, such as Sir Mark Moody Stuart,
stepped forward and dedicated years to translate Kofi Annan’s call into
the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, the United Nations Global Compact. 

Annan’s call to action is as relevant today as it was two decades ago:
“The spread of markets outpaces the ability of societies and their
political systems to adjust to them, let alone to guide the course they
take. History teaches us that such an imbalance between the economic,
social and political realm can never be sustained for very long. The
global economy will be fragile and vulnerable to the backlash from all
the “isms” of our time: protectionism, populism, nationalism, ethnic
chauvinism, fanaticism and terrorism.” Thousands of companies around the
world who have embraced the ten universal principles of the UN Global
Compact in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and
anti-corruption have the opportunity to carry Kofi Annan’s legacy
forward now.

Kofi Annan not only had the courage to call on CEOs
to embed universal values of humanity into corporate strategies and
practices. He also played a critical role in the creation of the modern
sustainable investing movement. During his darkest hours when smear
campaigns against him were fueled by some of the world’s most powerful
opinion spinners and when “the enemy was within the organization,”
trying very hard to block any action that would advance the goals of the
United Nations, Kofi Annan invited CEOs of some of the world’s largest
asset owners and asked them to embrace the integration of environmental,
social and governance (ESG) factors into their decision-making. He then
joined them – against the advice of some of his aides – to launch the
UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI)
at the New York Stock Exchange in April 2006. And with the appointment
of John Ruggie, Kofi Annan paved the way for the UN Guiding Principles
on Human Rights, now the gold standard in this critical area.

the UN Global Compact and the PRI are thriving initiatives, and
numerous other initiatives around the world have taken root as well. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),
adopted in 2015, build on this foundation and offer a roadmap for
action. As the principles of the UN Global Compact have become part of
big data analyses and smart algorithms, such as Arabesque’s S-Ray,
Kofi Annan’s legacy is now also at work at the critical intersection
between corporate responsibility and sustainable finance, which may well
become the most important driver for our common future.

Annan has given us so much. He has shown us the meaning and practice of
true leadership. His decency, respect and deep sense of humility and
responsibility have touched our hearts and minds.

Kofi, your smile will always be with us.” 

The August 28, 2018 Main Street WIRE
has more on Roosevelt Islanders remembering Kofi Annan.


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