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Remarks by H.E Mr. Kofi Annan on being decorated with the title of Grand Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honour


Our friendship has been founded on shared values and common goals.


Je me rappelle encore très bien de la célèbre saillie du Général de Gaulle traitant l’Onu de “grand machin” en 1960.

Il est donc à la fois ironique et flatteur que la France honore aujourd’hui un grand machiniste comme moi.

Je vous remercie de cet honneur, qui me touche profondément.

La relation entre la France et les Nations unies a naturellement évolué depuis cette sortie du Général.

Dès 1964, la France a commencé à percevoir l’ONU non pas comme un défi à sa souveraineté, mais comme un instrument de sa souveraineté.

A l’heure de la mondialisation, les Etats ont plus que jamais besoin d’une institution universelle, fondée sur des règles, à travers laquelle s’attaquer aux grands défis de notre époque.

Il y a un proverbe africain dont je me souviens qui rend bien compte de la longue relation que j’ai entretenu avec la France : un ami est quelqu’un avec qui vous avez partagé un chemin.

J’ai partagé un long chemin avec la France.

Nombre de ceux avec lesquels j’ai fait ce chemin sont ici ce soir, et je les remercie d’avoir accepté l’invitation à partager ce moment unique avec moi.

Et comme je suis entre amis, j’espère que vous ne m’en voudrez pas si je cesse d’infliger des outrages à la belle langue de Molière pour passer à celle de Shakespeare, qui m’est moins farouche.

Our friendship has been founded on shared values and common goals.

Together we have strived to achieve a just and peaceful world rooted in the respect for human rights, the rule of law and the question for sustainable development.

I look back on many years of productive cooperation with France.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, France played a key role in developing UN peacekeeping as a force for collective security and stability in the post-Cold War era.

France also showed great courage and integrity in refusing, on principle, to support the intervention in Iraq in 2003.

More recently, you bravely intervened to save Mali from collapse despite the risks involved.

Like me, I think you are convinced that development is fundamentally about peace and security.

France has therefore been a firm supporter and advocate of the Millennium Development Goals.

France is the fourth biggest development aid donor world-wide.

You devote more than half of that considerable aid budget to Africa alone, which is a gesture to which I am sensitive.

You also played a key role in the establishment of the Global Fund, which has saved millions of lives.

After decades of despair, it looks like we may finally be winning the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

France is also a world leader in human rights.

In fact, as the home of the Enlightenment (Les Lumières) and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, in 1789, it was a forerunner to the UN’s own Universal Declaration.

It was therefore not surprising that you helped to reform the UN’s human rights system, transforming the discredited Human Rights Commission into the UN Human Rights Council.

France also helped the passage of the Rome Statute, and was the first of the P5 members of the Security Council to sign and ratify the treaty that created the International Criminal Court.

Impunity was never acceptable. It is no longer accepted.
My time at the UN may be over, but the path still stretches out before me.

Since leaving office, I have taken on many projects that I think are important for our future:

Through the Africa Progress Panel, I am trying to encourage sustainable and equitable development in Africa.

We are about to release our latest study on the unique opportunity presented by the continent’s natural resources boom, and urging African leaders not to waste it.

Through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa we are trying to improve the productivity of Africa’s smallholder famers, so that Africa can not only feed itself, but eventually help feed the world;

Through the West Africa Commission on Drugs, we are trying to put the alarming rise in drug trafficking and consumption in West Africa on the agenda and propose measures to address them.
Finally, I remain committed to, and engaged in, helping prevent and resolve a number of violent conflicts around the world.

“As you know, the bible says “Blessed are the peacemakers”. At my age the promise of a place in Heaven is an argument that begins to resonate.

After hearing out this list, I am sure you can understand why my wife sometimes complains I have gone from the vie active to the vie hyperactive.

She urges me to retire from retirement.

But it is difficult to stop as long as I know I can contribute to a better world.

As in past years, I count on France’s support to stay on this path with me.

Thank you once again for this honour and, more importantly, for your friendship.


Our friendship has been founded on shared values and common goals.