UNA-UK was delighted to host the launch of Kofi Annan's new book, ‘We the Peoples: A UN for the Twenty-First Century’, on 20 May at King's College London (KCL).
Held in partnership with the Kofi Annan Foundation and the KCL Conflict, Security and Development Research Group, the event marked the start of UNA-UK's UN Forum 2014 countdown.
Mr Annan's tenure as UN Secretary-General saw him play a decisive role in global affairs at the turn of the millennium. His new book features key speeches from this era, which reflect how deeply the UN was involved in issues from development and health, to climate change and the prevention of genocide.
At the event, UNA-UK's Chairman, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, conducted a wide-ranging interview with Mr Annan, during which he reflected on his time at the UN and global developments since then. Speaking about the 'responsibility to protect' - a key outcome that Mr Annan steered through the UN World Summit in 2005 - he cited Kenya as an example of what was possible.
Mr Annan served as mediator following the 2007-08 election crisis in that country. One of his objectives was to ensure that this was not just a process involving politicians but civil society too, especially young people. For them, he said, "it's not hope but action that matters".
He also spoke about his experiences as UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria, a position he relinquished in 2012 citing the lack of sustained internatonal support, particularly by key countries. He said that the involvement of regional powers - Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia - was crucial to a negotiated solution.
On Ukraine, Mr Annan expressed hope that the world was not entering a third Cold War. He noted that governments should have anticipated Russia's actions, given that the country is in its 'backyard', recalling US policy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
He also spoke about his mission to convince states to ensure the UN's original mission - to serve "we the peoples", not "we the governments" - was not forgotten. For this segment of the interview, Mr Annan was joined by Edward Mortimer, his former speechwriter and director of communications at the UN.
Both men said that telling the UN's story and engaging the public were key challenges with which the organisation continues to grapple.
Thanking Sir Jeremy for his leadership of UNA-UK, Mr Annan said "organisations like yours are extremely helpful, and we need to work more closely with you".
After the interview, Mr Annan signed copies of his book and engaged with participants during a reception.
A recording of the event can be found on KCL's War Studies Department YouTube channel.
Copies of Mr Annan's book can be purchased via Paradigm Publishers