4 March — The Asean Secretariat today received another high-profile visitor: the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, H E Kofi Annan. In a two-hour visit to the Secretariat, Mr Annan had an exchange of views on global affairs with the Secretary-General of Asean, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, and then proceeded to a working lunch hosted by Dr Surin, who was accompanied by his Deputy Secretary-General for Community and Corporate Affairs, Bagas Hapsoro, and members of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to Asean.
“We had an extremely fruitful discussion on recent developments in Asean and Mr Annan commended the impressive progress Asean has made,” said Dr Surin.
The former UN Secretary-General in his remarks said, “Asean is one of the most successful organisations which I look up to and admire”. A firm believer that regional organisation have to be more responsive to problems in their own neighbourhood, Mr Annan said that no internal conflicts could remain internal for long and that the best way is to work together to solve common issues.
Mr Annan further stressed that the civil society and the private sector are important, as they are players and contributors in any regional organisation. “When we begin the UN Charter, we begin the preamble to the Charter with ‘We the peoples’ because we believe we must involve all stakeholders,” he noted.
Echoing Mr Annan, Dr Surin said that Asean also believes in the same principles, as the Asean Charter, in its preamble, also begins with the words ‘We, the peoples’. The involvement of civil society and the private sector are critical, just like how it is in the UN, he said.
Mr Annan, in his discussions, also noted the progress made by Asean in consolidating itself as the centre of focal points and initiatives in this region, with contribution of other major players in the world.
Mr Annan, who was the 7th UN Secretary-General, has devoted almost his entire working life to the UN. The first UN staff to be elected as UN SG, Mr Annan’s first term was from 1997-2001, after which he was reappointed for a second term from 1 January 2002-2006. In October 2001, Mr Annan and the United Nations were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world.
Since leaving the UN, Mr Annan has continued to press for better policies to meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly in Africa. He has also continued to use his experience to mediate and resolve conflict. Mr Annan leads the Kofi Annan Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation based in Geneva dedicated to global leadership, mediation and conflict resolution, and advocacy and partnerships. In Kenya in early 2008, Mr Annan led the African Union’s Panel of Eminent African Personalities to help find a peaceful resolution to the post-election violence. He is also the Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
Mr Annan was recently conferred the title of the first Li Ka Shing Professor by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. Mr Annan also currently serves as the Chancellor of the University of Ghana, and a Global Fellow at Columbia University in the United States.
Mr Annan, who was visibly moved by the thunderous applause by the staff of the Asean Secretariat who had gathered to welcome him, was the latest in a series of high-profile visits to the Asean Secretariat since Dr Surin’s appointment as the Secretary-General of Asean. Other visitors had included Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of Thailand and State Councilor Dai Bingguo of the People’s Republic of China. Prior to his visit to the Secretariat, Mr Annan called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia at the Presidential Palace.