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June 3, 2009

Speech at the "Global Leadership Studies Program" in the University of Tokyo on June 3, 2009

It is my great pleasure to welcome as speaker, Kofi Annan, to address the issue of global leadership. He is indeed, the one person who is genuinely qualified and recognized as a "global leader."

My privilege is to have known him, worked with him and worked for him as UN High Commissioner for Refugees. At one of the major New York NGO gathering, Kofi once referred to a saying that "every good person must work for UNHCR, at least once in a lifetime." I was surprised but honestly flattered by his statement, and came to appreciate more and more what he really meant. He had once worked for UNHCR, then served on various posts in the UN as head of administrative and personnel departments, on to peace keeping and then was elected Secretary General. From l997 through 2006 what characterized his leadership was superb political judgment underpinned by moral and humanitarian commitments. I wish to remind all of you present that it was Kofi together with Prime Minister Mori of Japan who took the initiative to launch the Commission on Human Security. It was my privilege together with Amartya Sen that we were able to engage in defining and promoting the human security strategy.

What I wish to comment this afternoon is not so much the well-known leadership he exercised as Secretary-General, but how he has continued to reach out globally after he left the United Nations. While serving as the president of the Global Humanitarian Forum and the Kofi Annan Foundation, Mr. Annan has taken action on addressing the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable people particularly in Africa. I am happy to report to you that this morning, Mr. Annan, as chairman of the Board of the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa, presided over the ceremony of signature exchange with JICA, to launch a program to double the rice production in Sub-Saharan Africa in the next ten years. Mr. Annan has been deeply concerned over the effects of the global economic and financial crises on the lives of the poorest people especially in Africa. I am glad that agreements have been reached to take concrete steps among a wide range of African and Asian agriculture specialists to cope with the most basic of livelihood needs, food.

On the questions of peace and security, the one well-known case that he led to success, was the settlement of the crisis that fell on Kenya following the December 2007 elections. Violence erupted resulting in loss of life, destruction of property and population displacement. The outbreak shocked the world, because Kenya had been looked at as the beacon of hope in Africa, a politically stable country with a steadily growing economy.

It is widely appreciated that Mr. Annan led a five week long intense negotiations to success. Looking back on the negotiating process as a concerned outsider one year later, I wish to note at least two characteristics that contributed to the successful outcome. First relates to Mr. Annan's personal leadership. Second owes to the strength of the broad leadership strata that had grown in Africa, centered in the African Union.

The first initiative to address the crisis was taken by President Kufuor, the president of Ghana in his capacity as the Chairman of the African Union. Kufuor visited Kenya from 8-10 January 2008, to initiate a mediation process, and succeeded in convincing the two presidential contenders Kibaki and Odinga to agree to a mediation process by a three-member panel of eminent African personalities chaired by Kofi Annan. The panel embarked on an intense five week mediation process. The Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) process, successfully brokered a face to face meeting with the two principal contenders, parliamentarians and a host of relevant personalities. Several agendas were selected and addressed--- immediate measures to stop the violence, address the humanitarian needs of the displaced persons and ensure their security through establishing independent bodies to investigate all aspects of the elections and correcting the mishaps. The most important mission of the KNDR mediation process was to propose comprehensive constitutional and institutional reforms. Since then, the Panel remained fully engaged in monitoring the implementation of the accord, and one year later on 30-3l March 2009, held a review meeting in Geneva, under the auspices of the Kofi Annan Foundation.

What is most impressive about the Kenya process is the fact that first, the crisis was averted from spreading further, and that the conflict was settled through intense political negotiations. Second, that the negotiations were initiated and carried out by African leaders--- former Tanzanian President Mkapa, former Mozambique Minister and First Lady Graca Machel. Third, that the African Union was fully in the lead with Chairman Kufuor taking the initiative and continuing to backing up. In fact the action and the strong solidarity demonstrated by the African Union proved that the Union had undergone major institutional change. In the days of the OAU (Organization of African Unity), the fundamental principle with regard to critical political developments of member states was "non interference!" No member state was allowed to intervene in the domestic affairs of other states. At best, the Secretary General might negotiate or mediate, but not to pass judgment. Today, the AU principle is one of "non indifference." The AU must be involved to ensure proper handling of leadership transition. The Kenyan National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) process proves that the new principle is in fact in motion.

Having focused on the impressive African leadership output in assessing the successful management of the Kenya crisis, further attention should be directed to the issue of personalities. Without the leadership taken by Kofi Annan, might similar success have come through? At the time of the outbreak of the violence in Kenya, Kofi Annan says he "happened to be in Accra," and that President Kufuor called him to help. Coincidence always helps but I think the stage had been carefully set up.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, Annan had accumulated knowledge of dealing with conflicts and ample experience of settling them.In addition, he had access to capable human resources. As the mediation advanced and need for expertise became apparent, he could call on individuals and institutions he could rely upon. (Craig Jenness, Director of Electoral Assistance; Mark Mallock-Brown, Deputy SG; Hans Corell, USG for Legal Affairs etc). Moreover as the process drew international attention, Annan could act as the advocate for the cause and mobilize broad international support.

Kofi himself recognizes his special attributes. To quote from an interview that he gave to Martin Griffiths on the Kenya process, a year later, he said as follows; "I came with unique skills and attributes and also the ability to pick up the phone and speak to anyone around the world. Even George Bush spoke to me from Tanzania next door. That helped and they also knew that I had the entire international community behind me. It wasn't me saying that, they were the ones saying, we are 100 percent behind Kofi ---we support him fully. It gave me a leverage that other mediators would not have had."

To the question whether the leverage was more than what he could exercise as UN Secretary General, the answer was interestingly a definite "yes". If it were at the UN he said, the Secretary General would have to get a mandate from the Security Council and then would go to the General Assembly where the member states would debate the issue. Then he would send an envoy etc. Altogether it would have taken more time. Annan gave tribute to the African Union and the early presence of President Kufuor that allowed him to move so fast. Personally I fully appreciate the importance of "speed" in addressing crisis and focusing on the critical points. I have found the Kenyan mediation process a highly plausible example of leadership exercise.

I am pleased that Kofi Annan today, is free and open to exercise leadership for the world at large. He only stands on the organizations that he himself established with the help and commitment of governments and private resources. His strength is based on what he himself has accumulated, with vision and wisdom. As I said at the beginning of my comments,the central tribute to Kofi Annan is that he is "a good person" who can bring hope and peace to people all over the world. Here in Japan as he shares his views and experiences to the wide audience of students following the ‘Global Leadership Studies Program' of the University of Tokyo, he stands as a living model of a leader who will continue to do good for all peoples.

The world needs leadership to initiate and oversee the challenges. Kofi Annan will continue to lead the way. The world needs more Kofi Annans. I think he counts on many of you here in the audience to join in for the future.

By Sadako Ogata
President of JICA


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