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Kofi Annan: Working for Peace

Since 1945, the United Nations (UN) has worked to stop wars, help the poor, and protect children. Kofi Annan led the UN from 1997 to 2006. As a former leader of the UN, and a voice for people of all nations, Annan faced many challenges.

Wars have erupted in places around the world, for instance. Annan saw the issues of war and peace as central to his work. “I have to try to . . . [get] people who are fighting to make peace,” he once said.

Making peace is important to Annan. It can also be very hard. “It can be difficult to bring [people] together and make sure that they stop fighting,” he said. “But thinking of all those who are suffering in wars pushes me to continue.”

Kofi Annan knows that the nations of the world face another threat, too. “There is another fight that is very important, the fight against poverty,” he explains. Living in poverty makes it difficult for young people to live full and happy lives. “Half the world lives on less than two dollars a day. You need more than that for children to grow up healthy and get a really good education,” asserts Annan.

Man of the World

Annan has lived in many places in the world. He was born in the African nation of Ghana. Later, he went to school in the United States. His wife is from Norway. Of course, as the head of the UN, Annan also traveled frequently. “I have visited dozens of countries, more than you can count on your hands and toes,” he once told an interviewer.

During his travels, Annan met all kinds of people. “I meet many different people in my job, powerful people, like kings and presidents, and people who have very little power, like those who are homeless or those who are very young.”

He has a message for young people in the United States and around the globe. “Children should realize that what happens in one part of the world affects other parts,” he says. “So if you want to help the world, you can start by being friendly to your brothers and sisters, or by cleaning up when your parents ask you to, or by smiling at a friend. All of these actions help make the world a better place.”

The Nobel Prize

Kofi Annan has been rewarded for his efforts to make the world a better place. In 2001, he won the Nobel (noh BEL) Peace Prize. The prize is given once a year to a person or group that works for world peace. Other winners of this honor include Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela.

Annan was pleased to be honored as a peacemaker along with such other important winners of the prize. “Getting the Nobel Peace Prize—which I shared with the UN—was . . . [wonderful]. But I also felt it was a challenge for us to do more and to do better to help the world,” he said.