Kofi Annan ‘Declassified’: Preserving legacy and history

Date: 
Wednesday, 13 February 2019

New York | Dag Hammarskjöld Library 

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 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 two years to complete and involved archivists and staff from the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.

Richard Amdur, currently Deputy Director of Communications and Speechwriting, described it as “lonely work and Sisyphean labour 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, who curated a digital platform about Kofi Annan for scholars and the general public.

Both Mr. Haufek and Ms. Krasno briefly demonstrated how to find, browse and search the respective collections of Annan’s papers.  Their presentations were accompanied by a display of biographies and materials from the Dag Hammarskjöld Library’s collections.

All speakers said that the papers offered deep insights into Annan’s inclusive leadership style.  They described him as “a great listener” who had a “complex job” that he exercised with “intelligence and expertise”.

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