Annan, Kofi Atta kō´fē ä´tä ăn´ən [key] 1938–, Ghanaian diplomat, secretary-general of the United Nations (1997–2006), b. Kumasi. The scion of a family of Fante chieftains, he studied at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minn. (grad. 1961), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.A., 1972). Annan began working for the United Nations in 1962 (with the World Health Organization) and, except for a stint as head of Ghana"s tourist ministry (1974–76), he was with UN bodies until he became secretary-general. He acquired special expertise in the areas of refugees and peacekeeping and in 1990 negotiated the release of UN staff and Western hostages held by Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait. Named (1993) undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, he was a special representative to the former Yugoslavia (1995–96), overseeing the transfer of peacekeeping duties from UN forces to NATO. His tenure during this period was marred by the failure of the United Nations, its members, and its peacekeeping forces to prevent the atrocities that occurred in Rwanda and Bosnia.
In 1997, Annan succeeded Boutros Boutros-Ghali as secretary-general, becoming the first sub-Saharan African to hold the office he was elected to a second five-year term in 2001. Accessible and affably candid, combining idealism with realism, he generally was an effective consensus-builder. Annan particularly emphasized the UN"s traditional obligations in the area of human rights and the newer challenges of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and international terrorism. He had some success in streamlining UN bureaucracy and controlling its budget and, until his disagreements with the United States over its invasion of Iraq, had generally improved strained relations with the United States. Annan called for overhauling the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, to make it more representative of the UN"s membership and to increase the organization"s effectiveness, but he was not able to get member nations to agree to significant changes in the