Clark: 'Kofi Annan leading statesperson of our time'

Helen Clark meeting the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Wellington in 2000. Photo:...
Helen Clark meeting the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Wellington in 2000. Photo: Getty Images
Former prime minister Helen Clark has remembered Kofi Annan as the "leading statesperson of our time" following the announcement of his death yesterday.

The former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, who became the first black African secretary-general, died age 80.

"It is a very sad time for anyone who knew him.

"He will be been remembered as the leading statesperson of our time," Clark told Newstalk ZB on Sunday.

She admired most his life of dedication to the United Nations.

"He spent almost all of his working career in the United Nations, rising to the highest level. He always kept his humility, a sense of occasion and service"

His style of leadership was to gather dedicated and qualified people that could aid him in making the big decisions.

"Kofi knew it wasn't just about him, he knew you had to have the right people in the right place to do the job you wanted to do. That, I think carried him through some very difficult times as secretary-general."

Kofi always tried to find a way through, he was in peacekeeping in some of the darkest times including the Rwanda genocide, she said.

"It wasn't that Kofi didn't act. The member's states didn't act, if the security council doesn't act then the UN senior officials are powerless to act.
"He found himself in that position."

But when he was secretary-general during the intervention in Iraq he did not pause in denouncing it as a breach of international law, therefore illegal.

His foundation announced his death in Switzerland last night in a tweet, saying that he died after a short unspecified illness.

"Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy," the foundation said in a statement.

Annan spent virtually his entire career as an administrator in the United Nations.

His aristocratic style, cool-tempered elegance and political savvy helped guide his ascent to become its seventh secretary-general, and the first hired from within.

He served two terms from January 1, 1997, to December 31, 2006, capped nearly mid-way when he and the UN were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

During his tenure, Annan presided over some of the worst failures and scandals at the world body, one of its most turbulent periods since its founding in 1945.

Challenges from the outset forced him to spend much of his time struggling to restore its tarnished reputation.

Annan is survived by his wife and three children.

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