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Kofi Annan Quotes

Kofi Annan Quotes

Discover a wide selection of Kofi Annan’s most celebrated and impactful quotes on peace, democracy, human rights, and more. These Kofi Annan quotes were extracted from his speeches and statements from when he was the Secretary-General of the United Nations until his time as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation.

You can also find a selection of Kofi Annan speeches on our website and more in the UN online archives

Democracy

Democracy

  • “No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy.” – Kofi Annan, World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, 1998
  • “Ladies and Gentlemen, no one is born a good democrat, and no one is born a good citizen. It was an Indonesian, Alwi Shihab, who noted that democracy is a habit we need to cultivate.” – Kofi Annan, Bali Democracy Forum, 2016
  • “The will of the people must be the basis of governmental authority. That is the foundation of democracy. That is the foundation of good governance.” – Kofi Annan, International Conference on Governance for Sustainable Growth and Equity, 1997
  • “Democracy depends on the lively participation of organised civil society in political life. Politics is too important to be left only to the politicians.” – Kofi Annan, CDD Kronti ne Akwamu Lecture, 2016
  • “Deepening our democracy is a crucial struggle, not just for our future prosperity and peace, but also for our fundamental human aspiration to live as free men and women. At the end of the day, what matters is not so much which candidate or which party wins an election, as long as the country wins.” – Kofi Annan, CDD Kronti ne Akwamu Lecture, 2016
  • “I remain a committed believer in the value of democracy as a catalyst for better governance, greater security, and human development. The spread of democracy has been one of the most profound and positive developments that I have witnessed over my career.” – Kofi Annan, Address at the National Electoral Institute of Mexico, 2018
  • “We must make democratic systems more effective, and more responsive to the needs of average citizens. And in the face of growing cynicism towards democracy, we must not yield but defend and champion the values and virtues of democracy.” – Kofi Annan, Address at the National Electoral Institute of Mexico, 2018
  • “It is transparent and accountable institutions, not ‘strong men’ or strong leaders, that safeguard democracy and create the conditions for peace and prosperity.” – Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture, 2013
  • “Democracy is not just about elections, rather, democracy is first and foremost about laws and institutions that guarantee the rights of its citizens, and respects, even protects, religious freedom” – Kofi Annan, Bali Democracy Forum, 2016
  • “There is no single model of democracy, or of human rights, or of cultural expression for all the world. But for all the world, there must be democracy, human rights, and free cultural expression.” – Kofi Annan, Fiftieth anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1997

Democracy and the people

Democracy and Technology

  • “Technology does not stand still, and nor should democracy. We have to act fast, because digital advances could be just the start of a slippery slope leading to an Orwellian world controlled by Big Brother, where millions of sensors in our smartphones and other devices collect data and make us vulnerable to manipulation.” – Kofi Annan, Remarks at Munich Security Conference, 2018
  • “Finally, do not confuse your likes on Facebook with your votes at the ballot box. If the string of electoral surprises over the past few years has proved anything, it is that voting matters. The future is, quite literally, in your hands. Handle it carefully.” – Kofi Annan, Remarks at Munich Security Conference, 2018

Elections with integrity

  • “Elections with integrity are a challenge everywhere, including in the West.” – Kofi Annan, 
  • “Good elections are the best answer to the violence that aims to deprive the citizens of their right to choose their leaders – national and local – free of intimidation. Elections provide a moment for citizens to come together to debate and decide who will lead them, and for what purpose, and to renew their commitment to the democratic ideal.” – Kofi Annan, Adress at the National Electoral Institute of Mexico, 2018
  • “Only elections that the population generally accepts as fair and credible can lead to a peaceful and democratic rotation of leadership, conferring legitimacy on the winner and protecting the loser.” – Kofi Annan, Remarks at the Munich Security Conference, 2018
  • “Ladies and gentlemen, I see ensuring elections with integrity as one of the key challenges in today’s world because, without legitimate elections, democracy itself is undermined.” – Kofi Annan, Keynote speech at Oslo Centre’s 10th anniversary, 2016
  • “Elections should be the vehicle for popular choice in which the winner does not take all and the losers do not lose all.” – Kofi Annan, Remarks at Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, 2016
  • “Credible elections have to meet three essential criteria: inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability. That is only the way to earn the trust of the competitors and the public.” – Kofi Annan, CDD Kronti ne Akwamu Lecture, 2016
  • “Politics is too important to be left only to politicians alone. And elections are the key moments in political life, since they are the foremost mechanisms for peaceful and democratic rotation of leadership.” – Kofi Annan, Keynote address at the Nigerian Civil Society Conference, 2015
  • “Elections that meet legal form but fail the test of integrity are only pyrrhic victories that usually store up trouble for the future.” – Kofi Annan, Remarks at Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, 2016

Freedom of information

Political leaders

Development

3 pillars

  • “Healthy and sustainable societies are based on three pillars: peace and security, sustainable development, the rule of law and respect for human rights. There can be no long-term security without development; there can be no long-term development without security, and no society can long remain prosperous without the rule of law and respect for human rights.” – Kofi Annan, Article in the UN Chronicle, 2015

Development

Climate Change

Education

Gender Equality

Information

Markets

  • “Open markets offer the only realistic hope of pulling billions of people in developing countries out of abject poverty, while sustaining prosperity in the industrialized world.” – Kofi Annan, A New Coalition for Universal Values Speech, 2000

Partnerships

  • “I am confident that by working in close partnership across all sectors and by building nutrition-sensitive, sustainable, and climate-resilient food systems, we can achieve the SDG goal of ending malnutrition by 2030.” – Kofi Annan, Article on The Future We Want: Transforming our Food Systems for Improved Nutrition, 2017
  • “Realizing Africa’s potential contribution to world food supply and climate change adaptation and mitigation requires the engagement and expertise of scientists, multilateral institutions, governments and businesses; it requires concerted action.” – Kofi Annan, Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development Ceremony, 2011
  • “The path to greener economies and more sustainable development lies through partnerships with others.” – Kofi Annan, Midas Touch Asia Forum, 2015

Transport

  • “Now it is hard to imagine a world without modern transport. Transport drives economic and social development. Transport connects people to jobs, health services, and education and keeps the wheels of commerce turning.” – Kofi Annan, Remarks at the Sustainable Transport Forum in Paris, 2016

Peace and Reconciliation

Peace

  • “Globalization will not bring peace or prosperity unless we all share fairly in its benefits.” – Kofi Annan, World Civilisations: ‘Bridging the World’s Divides’ Lecture, 2010
  • “Peace is never a perfect achievement.” – Kofi Annan, Occasion, Date
  • “We all want peace. But, peace is a complex process. I believe that lasting peace requires reconciliation.” – Kofi Annan, Remarks at One Young World 2017 Peace Day Plenary Session, 2017
  • “A sustainable peace is, of course, more than the absence of war.” – Kofi Annan, Occasion, Date
  • “We must also avoid the trap set by extremists of limiting human beings to one identity. We all have multiple identities which enrich us as individuals.” – Kofi Annan, Bali Democracy Forum, 2016
  • EN: “If war is the failure of diplomacy, then diplomacy, both bilateral and multilateral, is our first line of defence. The world today spends billions preparing for war; shouldn’t we spend a billion or two preparing for peace ?” – Kofi Annan, Statement delivered at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., 1997 
    • FR : “Si la guerre marque l’échec de la diplomatie, alors, sûrement, la diplomatie, aussi bien bilatérale que multilatérale, est notre première ligne de défense. N’importe quel militaire de haut rang vous dira que sans une vigoureuse défense, il ne saurait y avoir d’offensive. À ce jour, le monde consacre des milliards de dollars à la préparation de la guerre. Ne devrions-nous pas consacrer un milliard ou deux à la préparation de la paix?”

Peace and Justice

Conflict

Divisions

  • “Nothing can be more dangerous to our efforts to build peace and development than a world divided along religious, ethnic or cultural lines. In each nation, and among all nations, we must work to promote unity based on our shared humanity.” – Kofi Annan, Message on the International Day of Peace, 2004
  • “No dispute is so entrenched that it cannot be overcome, and enmity between peoples need not last forever.” – Kofi Annan, Remarks at the Opening of Les Rencontres de Genève, 2015

Inclusion

Reconciliation

Violence

Leadership

3 pillars

  • “Healthy and sustainable societies are based on three pillars: peace and security, sustainable development, the rule of law and respect for human rights. There can be no long-term security without development; there can be no long-term development without security, and no society can long remain prosperous without the rule of law and respect for human rights.” – Kofi Annan, Article in the UN Chronicle, 2015

Development

  • “There can be no long-term peace and security without development. There can be no long-term development without peace and security.” – Kofi Annan, Article in the UN Chronicle, 2015
  • “We must remember that cohesive and healthy societies rest on three pillars – peace and security, development, the rule of law and respect for human rights.” – Kofi Annan, Speech delivered at 3rd Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture, 2013
  • “Lack of good governance and poor leadership is the single biggest obstacle to development.” – Kofi Annan, Lecture at the 700th-anniversary celebrations of Exeter College – Oxford, 2011
  • “Economic development must combat poverty and inequality in the long term and make tangible improvements in peoples’ livelihoods in the short term.” – Kofi Annan, Lecture at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, 2010
  • “The challenge now is to ensure economic development eradicates poverty, while reducing inequality and promoting environmental sustainability.” – Kofi Annan, Address at the 2013 Reinhard Mohn Prize, 2013
  • “This concentration of private wealth in Africa may, to some extent, explain why the continent’s health and education, the building blocks of development, are in such a poor state. In other words, taxing and redistributing wealth is not just a social justice issue: it is a key development necessity.” – Kofi Annan, Remarks at The European House-Ambrosetti Forum, 2015
  • “We can and must provide equitable access to sustainable development, particularly for those developing countries that are poised for their greatest growth. They have to be supported financially and technically to mitigate and adapt to climate change.” – Kofi Annan, Address at the 2013 Reinhard Mohn Prize, 2013
  • “We need to stop seeing development assistance as the rich giving a hand-out to the poor and put in place a genuinely universal compact where we work together to increase incomes and opportunity for all.” – Kofi Annan, Closing remarks at the 2013 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, 2013

Climate Change

Education

Gender Equality

Information

Markets

  • “Open markets offer the only realistic hope of pulling billions of people in developing countries out of abject poverty, while sustaining prosperity in the industrialized world.” – Kofi Annan, A New Coalition for Universal Values Speech, 2000

Partnerships

  • “I am confident that by working in close partnership across all sectors and by building nutrition-sensitive, sustainable, and climate-resilient food systems, we can achieve the SDG goal of ending malnutrition by 2030.” – Kofi Annan, Article on The Future We Want: Transforming our Food Systems for Improved Nutrition, 2017
  • “Realizing Africa’s potential contribution to world food supply and climate change adaptation and mitigation requires the engagement and expertise of scientists, multilateral institutions, governments and businesses; it requires concerted action.” – Kofi Annan, Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development Ceremony, 2011
  • “The path to greener economies and more sustainable development lies through partnerships with others.” – Kofi Annan, Midas Touch Asia Forum, 2015

Transport

  • “Now it is hard to imagine a world without modern transport. Transport drives economic and social development. Transport connects people to jobs, health services, and education and keeps the wheels of commerce turning.”- Kofi Annan, Remarks at the Sustainable Transport Forum in Paris, 2016

Food Security

Agriculture

Africa

  • “Globalization will not bring peace or prosperity unless we all share fairly in its benefits.” – Kofi Annan, World Civilisations: ‘Bridging the World’s Divides’ Lecture, 2010
  • “Peace is never a perfect achievement.” – Kofi Annan, Occasion, Date
  • “We all want peace. But, peace is a complex process. I believe that lasting peace requires reconciliation.” – Kofi Annan, Remarks at One Young World 2017 Peace Day Plenary Session, 2017
  • “A sustainable peace is, of course, more than the absence of war.” – Kofi Annan, Occasion, Date
  • “We must also avoid the trap set by extremists of limiting human beings to one identity. We all have multiple identities which enrich us as individuals.” – Kofi Annan, Bali Democracy Forum, 2016
  • EN: “If war is the failure of diplomacy, then diplomacy, both bilateral and multilateral, is our first line of defence. The world today spends billions preparing for war; shouldn’t we spend a billion or two preparing for peace ?” – Kofi Annan, Statement delivered at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., 1997

Nutrition

More Kofi Annan Quotes and Speeches

The Kofi Annan Quote Library is updated regularly and you can also discover a selection of Kofi Annan’s most famous speeches here. Get more information on Kofi Annan, including more Kofi Annan quotes and speeches in the UN online archives.