“Interventions, A Life In War and Peace” is the memoirs of Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the UN and career-long diplomat. He is Ghana-born, has traveled all around the world, and has had the opportunity to witness some of the best and the worst that humanity has to offer. I expected his memoirs to be filled with interesting behind-the-scenes views of many world events, and it was.
What I didn’t expect was for this book to make me want to try harder to finder solutions to problems in my own life. I didn’t expect this book to make me want to look at my own relationships, and to struggle and persevere and commit to finding outcomes that could please everyone involved. As with much in the creative process, so to with reading this book – the results of reading it, the changes in my own behavior, were NOT what I planned on.
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Here are some of the choice quotes I came across…
+ “This work produced no immediate results, as diplomacy often does not, but it was far from wasted, as diplomacy seldom is.”
+ “…whenever the military option was floated, I would ask, “After the bombing, then what?”
+ “The stakes are so high that you do not have the luxury of saying, “I’m not going to talk to this guy…”
+ “I knew no real process of reform and healing could begin without absolute candor, honesty, and openness.”
+ “If you have a problem and you can’t find a solution, you meet again tomorrow and you keep talking until you find a solution.”
+ “He taught me that when others insisted that sides must be chosen, and that is had to be either/or, there WAS another way – both and/or neither – that was truer to the reality of a complex world.”
+ “Education was linked in my mind to service.”
+ “When people are in danger, I insisted, everyone has a duty to speak out. No one has a right to pass by on the other side.”
+ ” Part of poverty is a lack of income, yes, but so too is a lack of education, health care, nutrition, access to safe drinking water, the subjugation of women, and environmental degradation.”
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What I learned
+The United Nations LOVES acronyms:UNIFIL,UNOSOM II, UNEF II, DPKO, UN SRSG, UNAMIR, UNHCR, UNPROFOR, and that’s just in the first 80 pages.
+The effort these men and women put forth in the name of diplomacy, from Kofi’s meetings, middle-of-the-night phone calls, and endless travel, to all the day-in and day-out solution-seeking, compromise-building, peace-keeping actions of the thousands of UN diplomats…all these things really made me consider how much effort I put into my own relationships, and my attempts to find solutions when problems arise.
I simply struggle to imagine the amount of patience, tolerance, calmness, inner peace, and just straight-up professionalism all the men and women of the UN must have.
This book made me want to try harder. It made me want to be better. It made me not want to see difficult situations as simply either/or. It seems so easy, especially with relationships, to write them off if they don’t turn out the way we hope. Reading this book has made me really want to do everything I can think of, consider every compromise, to make a way forward when solutions don’t seem possible.
Relationships of all kinds – family, friend, romantic, business – few of them run smoothly. This book reminded me to see the value in those relationships, even and especially, when they are difficult. And that if all the parties involved are willing to commit to working on a way forward, you HAVE to give it your all. Yes, buy-in by all parties is requisite, but if that is there, then so too is a solution. You just have to work at it, and work at it, and work at it.
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