Kofi Annan, whose 10-year stewardship of the United Nations expires at year's end, will be remembered as a skilful diplomat who brought prestige to the world body with a Nobel Peace Prize but was tainted by UN scandals.
In a farewell speech to the General Assembly last month, the 68-year-old Ghanaian, who has worked for the UN for 35 years, extolled the indispensable role of the UN in tackling 21st century challenges.
Briefing the 192-member assembly on his Middle East tour in the wake of the end of the war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, he said: "As I travelled through the Middle East, I saw again the legitimacy and reach of the United Nations."
"Its indispensable role in securing the peace in Lebanon has reminded us all how powerful this organisation can be, when everyone wants it to succeed," the UN chief added.
Annan "is ending his mandate fully in charge," said France's UN ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere.
Yet a year ago, the UN chief's reputation had been sullied by a series of corruption scandals, including one affecting the UN's oil-for-food programme for Iraq.
Resisting calls for his resignation spearheaded by US right-wingers, Annan assumed responsibility after an independent enquiry panel cleared him of ethical lapses but documented evidence of corruption and management lapses in the oil-for-food humanitarian scheme.
The attacks against him were also in part a payback for his public opposition to the US-led war in Iraq, which he called "illegal" because it was not authorised by the UN.
"But Annan was not a secretary general you could just get rid of...He had too much international support," said Roberta Cohen, an analyst at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
"I would have liked him to be stronger, to use the UN as a bully pulpit," she added. "And his management could have been stronger."
But the Ghanaian UN chief recovered and soldiered on, particularly after France and Britain rallied in support.
First elected to a five-year term in 1996, he was re-elected in 2001.
Richard Holbrooke, the former US ambassador to the UN, then heralded him as "the best secretary general in the history of the UN".
In October 2001, he and the UN were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
He was then credited with restoring the world body's credibility through his crusades against AIDS or his candid admissions of UN failures in stopping genocide and war crimes in Rwanda and Bosnia.
Despite his failings, Annan is generally rated as one of the most effective and popular UN chiefs.
"He is a man of peace who identifies remarkably well with the ideals of the UN. He also embodies the historic Millenium Summit and he also steered the institution on the path of reforms," de La Sabliere said.
The 2000 world summit set ambitious development goals, including a pledge to drastically reduce poverty around the world by the year 2015.