| Backgrounder: The Role of the UN Secretary-General

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan left a mixed legacy after two terms as the organization's chief executive, ending in 2006. Annan garnered a Nobel Prize for encouraging global cooperation on peace, launched unprecedented investigations into UN peacekeeping and security, and set about reforming bodies like the UN Human Rights Commission. Yet his critics also saw a failure in Annan's inability to do more to end abuses in Sudan's Darfur region, his handling of relations with the United States, and his management of the UN's Oil-for-Food program in Iraq. Annan's replacement, Ban Ki-moon, has made climate change and AIDS themes of his term. The differences between Annan's and Ban's leadership styles in many ways point to the ambiguous nature of the secretary-general position itself—a role bifurcated, often unevenly, between the tasks of "secretary" and "general."

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Co-authored by Carin Zissis and Lauren Vriens