NEW YORK, Aug. 18, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- American Jewish Committee, the global Jewish advocacy organization, mourns the passing of Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian diplomat and Nobel laureate who served with distinction as Secretary General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006.
"Kofi Annan, an individual of exceptional dignity, grace, and commitment, demonstrated that positively changing the UN posture towards Israel and the Jewish people is possible," said AJC CEO David Harris. "While overcoming the world body's endemic biases is an ongoing, long-term challenge, his singular contributions were pathbreaking."
Annan, the seventh UN Secretary General, was the first one to use the word "Holocaust," the first to address the threat of anti-Semitism, the first to advocate for ending the world body's unjust treatment of Israel, and the first to focus on the tragic fate of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the war and then was seized by the Soviets, never to be heard from again.
"The United Nations is, I hope and believe, what it always should be – a place where Jews can feel at home," Annan said in his address to an audience of nearly 3,000 people at the AJC Centennial Dinner, in 2006, in Washington, D.C. "I hope that within my lifetime, just as in this country, where Jews are accepted without question as full citizens, by all their fellow citizens, so Israel will be accepted without question as a member by the whole family of nations."
He noted that the "United Nations is fully engaged in the struggle against anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination," and that the UN marked on January 27 its "first annual international day of remembrance of victims of the Holocaust."
Annan was a fervent advocate for including Israel in one of the world body's five regional groups, a prerequisite to seeking election to one of the UN Security Council's ten rotating seats and other significant posts in the UN system. Israel had been excluded since it joined the UN in 1949.
"We must uphold the principle of equality among member states. I shall keep encouraging all concerned to find a solution," Annan declared at another AJC-hosted dinner, this time in New York in December 1999.
Spurred by his vision, and with the support of a multiyear AJC advocacy campaign, Israel was finally admitted to the West European and Others Group (WEOG) in New York in 2000, and to WEOG in Geneva in 2013.
"The United Nations will never forget its origins in the fight against fascism, and that its Charter was drafted as the world was learning the full horror of the Holocaust," Annan said at the 1999 AJC dinner.
AJC has been deeply engaged with the UN since its founding in 1945, a fact Annan acknowledged when he said, in 2006, that "the American Jewish Committee was one of a small band of non-governmental organizations that were present at the UN's creation," and AJC President "Jacob Blaustein was one of the most influential figures in that conference."
AJC regularly meets with senior UN officials, and during the opening of the UN General Assembly in September engages in private meetings with presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers from more than 70 UN member states.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee