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Nobel Winner

DPA news agency (jp)
October 10, 2008

Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, 71, on Friday crowned a distinguished career as a diplomat, statesman and peace broker by winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Martti Ahtisaari has worked to solve conflicts ranging from Northern Ireland to KosovoImage: AP

The former Finnish president has been involved in numerous missions aimed at solving international conflicts, ranging from Northern Ireland to the Indonesian province of Aceh as well as the Serbian province of Kosovo.

His breakthrough as a mediator came in Namibia, which achieved independence in 1990, capping years of work by the Finnish national who served as special representative to the United Nations secretary general and head of the UN's transition assistance team.

Ahtisaari and his wife, Eeva, were made honorary citizens of the southern African nation.

Formative years

Ahtisaari has said his interest in peace mediation can be traced to his childhood years. He was born on June 23, 1937 in Viipuri, a city that Finland had to secede to the Soviet Union during the Second World War, forcing 400,000 Finns from Karelia to relocate to Finland.

The experience of being displaced fuelled his interest to promote peace and "help others," he has said.

A second major achievement was the August 2005 peace deal between Indonesia and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) aimed at ending a decades-long conflict in the Indonesian province, and forged in the wake of the devastation caused by the December 2004 tsunami.

He has said mediation is "an 'art' rather than an established practice," adding that each conflict needs to be treated as a separate case.

Mediation efforts

Ahtisaari's hopes for the 2006 Peace Prize were dashed as the Nobel Committee selected Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh who founded the Grameen Bank that offers loans to the poor.

After qualifying as a teacher in 1959, Ahtisaari joined the foreign ministry in 1965. He served as ambassador to Tanzania and held top posts in the foreign ministry and later in the UN.

After his term as president 1994-2000 during which Finland joined the European Union, Ahtisaari formed the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) that has been engaged in various mediation efforts.

While in office in 1999, Ahtisaari along with former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and former US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott hammered out a plan to resolve the Kosovo crisis that then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic could accept.


In 2000 he was called in to inspect Irish Republican Army (IRA) arms caches in Northern Ireland and later served as UN special envoy for the Horn of Africa. In recent years, Ahtisaari has been engaged in discussing the future of the EU including Turkey's possible membership.

Almost three years ago, in November 2005, he was named special UN envoy to Kosovo but his efforts to bridge the divisions over Kosovo's status were unsuccessful and he stepped down after presenting his recommendations in February 2008.

He has won numerous awards including the UN cultural organization UNESCO's Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize for 2008, named after the late president of Ivory Coast, as well as several honorary doctorates.

The funds from the UNESCO award were to be used for a foundation to promote peace, mediation and help post-conflict societies.

Crowning glory

The Nobel, which is worth 10 million kronor ($1.5 million), will be handed over at a ceremony in Oslo on December 10.

In 2007, the peace prize was shared by the United Nations climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore of the United States for their work on climate change.

For this year's award, the five-member Nobel Committee had received 197 nominations for the coveted award including 33 organizations.

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