Tuesday, 19 March 2013


“When people are in danger, everyone has a duty to speak out. No one has a right to pass by on the other side.”

This is one of the main messages of “Interventions: A Life in War and Peace”, Kofi Annan’s compellingly written and thought-provoking memoir.

The former United Nations secretary-general discussed the book last Saturday when he was a guest at lit.COLOGNE, an international literary festival in the western German city. But while the audience was impressed by Annan's "aura of authority" and by his eloquence, many people wanted more details about his work and life.

For that, they'll have to read "Interventions". The book gives readers an inside view of international diplomacy during a turbulent period that included the Balkan conflicts and the Iraq War.

Annan, the first sub-Saharan African to hold the UN’s top post, writes candidly about some of the UN’s failed efforts in countries such as Somalia and Rwanda, and he gives absorbing accounts of various political issues and leaders. But he also pays homage to ordinary people around the world who are fighting to improve their lives and live in dignity.

"Ultimately, the success of our efforts on the question of intervention should not be measured in wars launched or sanctions imposed but in lives saved," he writes of the UN's peacekeeping missions.

With the question of how to protect civilians in war-torn areas becoming increasingly pertinent, readers will be struck by the complex procedures involved in getting governments to act. But Annan warns that everyone is diminished when the international community stands by and watches as atrocities are committed.

"We as a global community should learn the hard-won lessons of the past, and seek to prevent injustices and inequities from taking root before they lead to crisis and conflict," he stresses.