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Kofi Annan declassified: preserving his legacy

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Topics: Events, Resources

When former Secretary-General Kofi Annan completed his 10-year-term at the head of the Organization, he left behind 1,200 boxes of records – a literal flood of memos, letters, and handwritten notes.  Several of his close collaborators, UN Archives staff and a lecturer at City College came together at an event hosted by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library to talk about how those records were brought out into the open.

Gillian Sorensen, former Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations, attributed his desire to make his records available to the public as early as possible to Annan’s “keen sense of history”.

Stephen Haufek, Chief of the Archives Unit, described the painstaking process of selecting records for declassification and making them available online through the UN Archives website. The project took 2 years to complete and involved archivists and staff from the United Nations Executive Office of the Secretary-General. Richard Amdur, currently Deputy Director of Communications and Speechwriting, described it as “lonely work and Sisyphean labor that was also fascinating”.  As a result, 80% of Annan’s records are now available online for public consultation.

These declassified records served as a key resource for Jean Krasno, lecturer at The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at City College of New York, and CCNY librarians to curate a digital platform about Kofi Annan targeted at scholars and the general public. All speakers highlighted that the papers offered deep insights into Annan’s inclusive leadership style. 

Their presentations were accompanied by a display of biographies and relevant materials from the Dag Hammarskjöld Library’s collections. 

To find out more, explore the UN Archives Kofi Annan collection, the City College of New York’s selected papers of Kofi Annan, the UN Oral History Collection, and the Library's Research Guide on the former Secretary-General.