Kofi Annan has given a wide-ranging overview of his career and core beliefs to delegates at One Young World Summit 2012.
The former UN Secretary General told the gathered young leaders: “I grew up with a sense that change is possible, even the most basic, fundamental, radical change is possible…Don’t accept when people say this is the way we do it. Ask why do you do it this way.”
He was speaking at the third annual One Young World summit, in Pittsburgh, which brought together 1,300 leaders from 182 countries to engage with pressing global issues. Seven Hills led the international media team in Pittsburgh, and arranged interviews for the former UN Secretary General with CNN International and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
Mr Annan was expansive about the difficulties of acting as an international mediator, on the back of the publication of his memoir, Interventions: A life in War and Peace.
On the necessity of negotiating with dictators, he commented: “You make peace not with your friends, [but] with your enemies, and it is men like that, who are often standing in the way of peace, that you have to deal with. And so you shake hands with the devil to save lives and make peace. And normally these are men who you wouldn’t have a drink with, but you have to deal with them.”
Speaking about his role as UN international envoy to Syria, from which he stood down in August, he said: “One of the messages I [gave] to leaders in the region is, there’s a strong transformational wind blowing through the region that cannot be resisted for long. And that they should embrace change and accept reform. And I reminded them of an African proverb, a Swahili proverb, which says, you cannot bend the wind, and so bend the sail. I urged them to embrace reform and help their people live a better life.”