Quiet, principled diplomacy.
This is what Caribbean leaders can learn from the life of late United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, former Congress of the People (COP) political leader Winston Dookeran said yesterday.
“They (Caribbean leaders) can take away the view that world diplomacy is not a matter of rhetoric or simply responding to a particular anxiety but a sustained effort,” he told Sunday Newsday.
Dookeran, a former Central Bank governor, recalled he had met Annan at a UN debt crisis symposium almost two decades ago.
Dookeran said he found Annan to be “soft-spoken and very determined.”
“His career has been an exemplary one for a world diplomat of the standing that he achieved, perhaps one of the most recognised international diplomats, and he was able in my view to take the UN through a period of difficulty although he himself had some challenges.” He added: “At the end of his career, it had been placed on a path of global legitimacy once more. But I believe he has made a tremendous contribution for a man who came from the ranks, and more importantly, from the Third World and from Africa in particular.”
Ghanaian-born Annan, 80, died early yesterday after a short, unspecified illness, his foundation said in a statement.
The first black African to become UN secretary general, Annan served in the post for two terms, from 1997 to 2006. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize for humanitarian work in 2001. Dookeran, now a professor at the Institute of International Relations, UWI, St Augustine, regarded Annan as a “good friend of the Caribbean.”
“Never did I get a moment that he was not a genuine friend to the Caribbean in my interactions not only with him but the people with whom I had to deal with subsequently.”
He added: “So, his passing is, indeed, not only a sad loss. It is a recognition of the heights that once someone puts his or her mind to the right values in the UN and elsewhere, they could achieve success in the world of difficulty, especially in this period of political and diplomatic turbulence that we are in.”
Dookeran, a former foreign affairs minister, said Annan, through his tenure at the UN, had stayed the course.
“He found doable solutions. He did not involve himself in rhetoric but whatever he said, there was a sense of sincerity that everybody knew. His moral strength as a leader was dominating in his relationships with nations.”
In extending condolences to Annan’s family, Emancipation Support Committee chairman Khafra Kambon said the late diplomat had made an invaluable contribution to the world.
“There is a historical significance to him quite apart from anything he achieved,” Kambon said, noting Annan was the first black-skinned African man to hold such a lofty position.
“The significance is psychological and really shifts the boundaries of the imagination. You have people who look like him, children who look like him growing up all over the world, but there are so many images that it limits the imagination. Kambon likened Annan’s role to that of Barack Obama becoming president of the United States.
He recalled Annan had sought to minimise discrimination within the UN’s operations.
“He looked at how things were divided by regions. So depending on what region you came from, people got different contracts and levels of renumeration.
“But he created an equalising process so that the person who came from Africa or India, Thailand, would have equal opportunity to advance within the UN system. That is one of the important, internal things he did.”