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Annan set to speak at ND event

Mary Kate Malone | Tuesday, September 12, 2006

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to be the keynote speaker for a peace conference at Notre Dame Nov. 12-14, a Mendoza College of Business official said Monday.

Annan has confirmed that he plans to attend, but given the nature of his job he can make no guarantees he will be there, said Father Oliver Williams, director of the Center for Ethics and Religious Studies in Business in the Mendoza College of Business.

“It is like inviting the President of the United States,” said Williams, who is the lead organizer of the peace conference titled “A Conference on Peace through Commerce: Partnerships as the New Paradigm.”

If Annan is able to come, he will speak Nov. 12. The location of his talk has not yet been determined, but would be in a larger venue like McKenna Hall to accommodate a bigger audience, Williams said.

The conference is being put on by the Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business, the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the United Nations Global Compact Office and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

It will bring together students, professors, corporations, non-government organizations and government leaders to discuss how commerce can be a tool to build peace.

Annan will speak to that, Williams said.

“I think the wider theme [of the conference] is peace through commerce and how companies can work with Oxfam and Amnesty International to try to find ways to bring justice and peace to troubled lands,” Williams said.

University President Father John Jenkins wrote a letter to Annan last fall asking him to speak at the conference. Annan confirmed, but Williams was advised two weeks ago to prepare a backup speaker in case Annan is needed in another part of the world during the conference. Williams said Annan recently has been spending considerable time in Lebanon, the Darfur region of Sudan and various Middle Eastern nations.

Williams knows Annan through his work on the U.N.’s Foundation for the Global Compact, a non-profit entity that helps fund the Global Compact – the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative. Williams was appointed to one of three director positions last spring, and reports directly to Annan’s office.

As secretary-general, Annan is considered the chief administrative officer for the United Nations. Annan took office Jan. 1, 1997 and was appointed to a second term in 2002. He has worked to promote peace in the Middle East and both Annan and the U.N. received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Earlier that year he issued a five-point “Call to Action,” where he outlined plans for a Global AIDS and Health Fund, a mechanism that would help developing countries combat the AIDS crisis.

On Monday, Annan spoke to the U.N. Security Council about the mounting humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region, asking for intervention to help combat the violence that has plagued the region in recent months.

Annan is fluent in English, French and several African languages. He is married and has three children.