You are here: Kofi Annan: His life and legacy, an evening at Westminster Hall

27 June 2019

On 3 June UNA-UK was delighted to host the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and special guests for an evening to celebrate the life and legacy of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. 

Although many roads around Westminster were shut on account of President Trump’s state visit, around 1,500 guests braved the traffic to attend this special evening in the historic Central Hall Westminster. 

UNA-UK’s Executive Director, Natalie Samarasinghe, welcomed the audience by remembering Kofi Annan as the “defining Secretary-General” of her generation. 

"It is surely a reflection of his enduring legacy that so many of you have travelled so far to be here. Today London is a beacon of support for the values of the UN and for global citizenship." 

Following on, Nane Annan – one of several members of the Annan family we were delighted joined us – gave a touching reflection on Kofi Annan as a leader, father and friend to so many. 

Mrs Annan took a moment to address the young people in the audience, 

“I want to turn to the young people here – he had a very strong relationship with you and loved to engage with you. He was always thinking outside of the box, just like you. He had full confidence that you would find the right way forward as leaders in your own right.

He told you always, you are never too young to lead and told us we are never too old to learn.”

Following on Sherrie Westin, President of Global Impact and Philanthropy for Sesame Workshop, took to the stage with the wonderful Kami – an HIV-positive Muppet who was made a UNICEF “Champion for Children” by her hero Kofi Annan. 

Kami and Sherrie together remembered his remarkable work combatting the stigma of HIV-AIDs.

“He believed in the power of ordinary people, and even Muppets to bring about great change…By breaking down that stigma and culture of silence surrounding HIV-Aids Kami has literally saved lives.” 

Kami was then introduced to our patron, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, former UN Deputy-Secretary-General. Lord Malloch-Brown said,

“He (Kofi Annan) would have taken a wry amusement about the very different messages being delivered in different parts of London. But would have had great confidence our message of multilateralism, of engagement, of a better world for all would prevail.”

Lord Malloch-Brown went on to welcome UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J Mohammed, who also stressed Kofi Annan’s remarkable legacy as a leader and mentor.

“In everything he did he highlighted the role of civil society, stressed the centrality of human rights and underscored the importance of women and youth. We were united in our belief for a stronger and more responsive United Nations that we know today is even more relevant.”

Mary Robinson then took to the stage to remember her time working with Kofi Annan, as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and their subsequent collaboration as members of the Elders.

Reflecting on his legacy, Robinson said,

“His determination re-established the United Nations as a body to defend the poor and vulnerable, to provide support to those suffering injustice and to be the custodians of equality and human rights.”

Mary then joined Amina and Mark for a roundtable discussion before the evening was brought to a close with a performance from the Citizens of the World Choir that brightened Central Hall, which you can see here.

The evening was part of a series of events in partnership with Chatham House, which included a two-day conference entitled ‘Our Shared Humanity: the legacy of Kofi Annan.’ For more information on that conference, including videos of panel discussions see here

You can watch the evening event on youtube here, or click the links next to each speaker to watch that section of the event. A selection of photographs from the event are available below.

We are grateful that the event was generously supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Open Society Foundations, as well as the cooperation of the Kofi Annan Foundation.