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CMI at 20 — President Ahtisaari’s vision is increasingly needed for peace mediation to meet future challenges

Published on Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Nobel Peace Laureate Martti Ahtisaari created CMI in 2000, following his term of office as President of Finland, with just a handful of employees. Over the next 20 years, CMI grew to be one of the world’s leading conflict resolution organisations. Last year, CMI was involved in nine peace processes in different parts of the world. “For us, Ahtisaari’s legacy above all involves values ​​and well-established ways of working. We believe that these principles are still topical in the new decade as the field of peace mediation seeks new ways to build lasting peace”, says Hanna Klinge, CMI’s Acting Executive Director. 

President Ahtisaari established CMI because he believed that all conflicts can be resolved. Over the course of 20 years, CMI has grown into one of the world’s leading conflict resolution organisations. CMI’s staff retreat was held in Hanko, Finland in June 2018. Photo: Riku Isohella.

The importance of peace mediation has grown during CMI’s 20-year journey. The field has expanded, become more professional, and has become an integral feature of international politics. Independent actors such as CMI have emerged alongside states and international organisations that engage in peace mediation. Peace mediation is increasingly recognised as an effective and cost-effective way to address conflicts and their root causes.

The award in 2008 of the Nobel Peace Prize to president Martti Ahtisaari gave Finland the significant foreign policy leverage and credibility that a small country needs to be a strong actor in the peace mediation arena.

Ahtisaari established CMI because he believed that all conflicts can be resolved. Over the course of 20 years, CMI has grown into one of the world’s leading conflict resolution organisations that works every day to fulfil this vision.

“For us, Ahtisaari’s legacy above all involves values ​​and well-established ways of working. We believe that these principles are still topical in the new decade as the field of peace mediation seeks new ways to build lasting peace”, says Hanna Klinge, CMI’s Acting Executive Director.

Peace lays the basis for the sustainable development of societies. The whole of society has to be involved in the peace process as extensively as possible. For the last five years, CMI has made robust efforts for the inclusion of women at peace tables.

Independence gives scope to act

While the importance of peace mediation has grown, over the past two decades it has become increasingly demanding. Conflicts are becoming more complex and therefore peace efforts are needed at a variety of levels to resolve them. Conflicts involve a changing body of actors that have different motives and interests. Conflicts stem from internal grievances, but they also often have a regional and international dimension.

During its 20th anniversary year, CMI wants to raise 3 themes

1. Peace is key to sustainable development of societies

2. Being an independent Finnish organization gives us space to act in peace mediation

3. What does the future of mediation look like?


The erosion of international cooperation and the rise of great power politics in recent years poses its own challenge to peace mediation. The United Nations was established to maintain peace in the world but now seems powerless in the face of many conflicts. A lack of trust in international relations diminishes the ability of official diplomacy to prevent and resolve conflicts.

“In this international context, independent organisations like CMI have an increasingly important role to play in creating the conditions for and in supporting official peace efforts. Our independence gives us the scope to act where official diplomacy cannot. We can build trust, have open-ended discussions with different parties to a conflict, create room for discussion on even the most sensitive issues, and bring together parties who would not otherwise meet,” explains Ville Brummer, CMI’s Programme Director.

President Ahtisaari established CMI to prevent and resolve conflicts with Finnish tenacity and perseverance while respecting and treating everyone equally. Itonde Kakoma, CMI’s Director for Global Strategy, on the left. Photo: Riku Isohella.

CMI heavily involved in shaping the future of peace mediation

It has become increasingly clear that peace lays the basis for the sustainable development of societies. And correspondingly, there is no peace without sustainable development. So the whole of society has to be involved in the peace process as extensively as possible. For the last five years, CMI has made robust efforts for the inclusion of women at peace tables.

Finnishness, Finnish values ​​and approaches provide a good basis for CMI’s work. For many regions afflicted by conflicts, it is particularly importance that Finland is not burdened by having a colonial history. President Ahtisaari established CMI to do the kind of ‘odd jobs’ in peace mediation – work that others are often unable to do. And to do so with Finnish tenacity and perseverance while respecting and treating everyone equally.

In Ahtisaari’s words, “Without equality, we can never rid the world of conflicts”. Peace mediation must help build more just societies. This message is particularly powerful in a situation where the Covid-19 crisis threatens to make conflict countries even more fragile and to give rise to new and old tensions.

20 years have elapsed since this formula was created. CMI is now looking to the future along with the rest of the peace mediation sector in a challenging circumstances. On top of the aggravation of the international system, technological change is also generating pressure. For example, hybrid warfare blurs the line between war and peace and makes it even more difficult to define the parties to the conflict and their weight. On the other hand, technology offers opportunities by, for instance, allowing greater inclusion of key groups in peace processes.

Conflicts will not come to an end in the future, but understanding how to resolve them will increase. And that’s where CMI aims to be a world beater.

What is CMI? In our 20th anniversary video our staff tells it in their own words.