Martti Ahtisaari is a former UN diplomat, a Finnish statesman and a renowned peace mediator in international conflicts. Upon leaving office of President of Finland, he founded the Crisis Management Initiative in 2000. In 2008 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leading role in bringing independence to Namibia, Serbia’s withdrawal from Kosovo, and autonomy for Aceh in Indonesia.
Former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari is the founder of CMI. He has played a leading role in peace deals in several parts of the world. In 2000, Ahtisaari declined the offer of the then-Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, of the post of Secretary General of the UN High Commission for Refugees. Ahtisaari felt he could make a greater contribution to peacemaking by directly tackling the root causes of conflicts. To this end, that same year he established the Crisis Management Initiative, the aim of which was to help the international community to engage in preventive diplomacy and peacebuilding. Since then, CMI has grown to become one of the leading specialists in conflict prevention and resolution. On 1 May 2021, CMI transferred all its operations to the new legal structure CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation, which continues the work of CMI association.
Life in peace mediation
Martti Ahtisaari was elected President of the Republic of Finland in early 1994 and served one term in office, until early 2000. After leaving the presidency, he took on various tasks in the areas of peace mediation and conflict resolution. In 2005, he helped facilitate the peace process between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement. From late 2005 to early 2008 Ahtisaari was Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the future status process for Kosovo. Martti Ahtisaari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 for, as the Nobel Committee’s press statement put it, “his important efforts, on several continents
and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts”. Although a wholehearted global citizen, Ahtisaari is far from being a rootless cosmopolitan. The Finnish and Nordic model of social justice remains of crucial importance to his thinking, and he is an ardent believer and proponent of the Nordic welfare state model as an inspiration for others throughout the world.
A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY
After a distinguished career in the United Nations and the Finnish Foreign Ministry, Martti Ahtisaari was elected President of the Republic of Finland in 1994. He held office until early 2000.
In 2000, Martti Ahtisaari founded Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), a non-governmental organisation, to continue his legacy in conflict resolution. On 1 May 2021, CMI transferred all its operations to the new legal structure CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation, which continues the work of CMI association. For his life’s work Ahtisaari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.
Upon leaving office in 2000, Ahtisaari has served in a variety of key international roles, including facilitating the peace process between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement, chairing an independent panel on the security and safety of UN personnel in Iraq, and appointments as UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa and as Personal Envoy of the OSCE CiO for Central Asia. Between 2005 and 2008, Ahtisaari was Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the future status process for Kosovo.
President Ahtisaari has been active in numerous non-governmental capacities. He has Chaired or Co-Chaired International Crisis Group, East-West Institute, Interpeace, European Council on Foreign Relations, Independent Commission on Turkey and CMI.
Martti Ahtisaari is married to Eeva Ahtisaari. They have a son.
A biography of Martti Ahtisaari by Katri Merikallio and Tapani Ruokanen has been published
in Finnish in 2011 under the title Matkalla, and in English in 2015 as The Mediator by Hurst Publishers.
Mr. Ahtisaari was elected President of the Republic of Finland in February 1994. He held office from the 1st of March 1994 to the 29th of February 2000. Soon after leaving office, Mr. Ahtisaari founded the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI). On 1 May 2021, CMI transferred all its operations to the new legal structure CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation, which continues the work of CMI association. In 2005, Ahtisaari and CMI facilitated the peace process between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement. Between 14 November 2005 and 29 February 2008, Ahtisaari was Special Envoy to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the future status process for Kosovo. Martti Ahtisaari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.
Martti Ahtisaari was for much of his career a civil servant
in the Finnish Foreign Ministry and the United Nations.
Various posts in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 1965-1973
Ambassador of Finland to the United Republic of Tanzania, 1973-1976,
accredited to Zambia, Somalia and Mozambique, 1975- 1976
Member of the Senate of the UN Institute for Namibia, 1975-1976
United Nations Commissioner for Namibia, 1977-1981
Special Representative of the Secretary General for Namibia, 1978-1988
Undersecretary of State in charge of International Development
Co-operation in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 1984-1986
Undersecretary-General the UN for Administration and Management 1987-1991,
leading the UN operation (UNTAG) in Namibia, 1989-1990
State Secretary in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 1991-1993
Chairman of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Working Group
of the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia, 1992-1993,
and Special Adviser to the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia
and to the Secretary General’s Special Representative for former Yugoslavia in 1993
President of the Republic of Finland, 1994-2000
In 1999, during his remaining time as President of Finland Mr. Ahtisaari,
former Prime-Minister of Russia Victor Chernomyrdin, and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott facilitated together the withdrawal of the Yugoslav/Serbian military and security forces from Kosovo and the establishment there of an international security and civil presence.
Post presidential tasks
Upon completion of his one term in office as President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari founded the Crisis Management Initiative, an NGO dedicated to conflict resolution, crisis management and peace mediation, in year 2000.
Co-drafting of a report on the human rights and political situation in Austria in 2000
Inspector of the IRA’s arms dumps with fellow inspector Cyril Ramaphosa, 2000
Chair of the independent panel on the security and safety of UN personnel in Iraq, 2003
Personal Envoy of the OSCE CiO for Central Asia, 2003-2004
UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, 2003-2005
Facilitator in the peace process between the Government of Indonesia and
the Free Aceh Movement in 2005. The process led to the signing of a Memorandum
of Understanding, thereby ending three decades of conflict in Aceh.
Special Envoy to the Secretary-General of the United Nations
for the future status process for Kosovo, 2005-2008
Chairman of the Board, International Crisis Group
Co-Chair of the Board, the East-West Institute
Co-Chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations
Member of the Prize Committee of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Founder of the Independent Commission on Turkey
Emeritus Member of The Elders
Mr. Ahtisaari graduated from the University of Oulu in 1959 and received an Honorary Doctorate (Pedagogy) from the University in 1989. He holds several Honorary Doctorates from a variety of fields and countries.
President Ahtisaari has received numerous awards and decorations:
Hononary Citizen of Namibia, 1992
Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award, 2000
The Hessen Peace Prize, 2000
The J. William Fulbright Award for International Understanding, 2000
Honorary Officer in the Order of Australia, 2002
Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo (Supreme Companion) of South Africa, 2004
Tribute of Appreciation by the Department of the State of the USA, 2005
The Gold Medal from the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 2006
Manfred Wörner Medal of the German Ministry of Defense, 2007
UNESCO Félix Houphöuet-Boigny Peace Prize, 2008
Nobel Peace Prize, 2008
MAJOR MILESTONES IN THE CAREER OF MARTTI AHTISAARI
1989–1990: Independence of Namibia
As the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Namibia from 1989-1990, Ahtisaari played a special role in Namibia’s independence from South Africa. Namibia was Ahtisaari’s first peace mediation assignment. He was involved with Namibia for a total of 14 years.
1994–2000: President of Finland
Ahtisaari was the first President in Finland to be elected by direct popular vote. During his presidency, Finland joined the European Union and unemployment declined significantly from the high rate of the recession of the beginning of the 1990s.
In 1997, at Ahtisaari’s initiative, Finland hosted the summit meeting between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and US President Bill Clinton. The subject of the meeting was NATO’s enlargement to the Baltic states.
At the end of his presidential term, in 1999, Ahtisaari, former Russian Prime Minister and Special Envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott negotiated a peace agreement that led to the withdrawal of Serbian troops from Kosovo.
2000: Inspection of IRA weapons caches
Ahtisaari, together with the South African statesman Cyril Ramaphosa, acted as weapons inspector concerning weapons caches of the Irish Republican Army. The inspectors played a central role in enabling the Northern Ireland peace process – the Good Friday Agreement.
2000: Foundation of the conflict resolution organisation CMI
Following his term as President, Ahtisaari founded the conflict resolution organisation the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI). Ahtisaari wanted his legacy to be continued by an organisation able to address the root causes of the conflicts as effectively as possible. Within 20 years, CMI has become one of the world’s leading conflict resolution organisations.
2005: Aceh peace agreement
Ahtisaari and CMI acted as mediator in the peace talks between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement. The peace accord ended nearly three decades of violence, and the province of Aceh attained special autonomy. The peace process has laid the foundations for positive economic development. Poverty and unemployment in Aceh have fallen markedly.
Ahtisaari was involved in CMI’s Aceh peace process implementation follow-up project of 2010-2012. He has also played an important role as advisor and door opener in several other CMI projects.
2005–2008: Negotiations on the status of Kosovo
Ahtisaari was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy in the negotiations on the status of Kosovo. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
2008: Nobel Peace Prize
Ahtisaari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2008 “for his great efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts”.
2011: Ahtisaari Days
The purpose of the nationwide Ahtisaari Days is to make peace mediation a part of the everyday life of young people in Finland. During the Ahtisaari Days, Finnish secondary schools and high schools learn about mediation, practice negotiations, and learn the skills needed to resolve conflicts. At the request of President Ahtisaari, CMI is the main organiser of the events.
The Ahtisaari Days have been held since 2011 and President Ahtisaari himself participated in them on nine occasions. Ahtisaari emphasises the role of equal education and young people in achieving social stability. The two come together in the Ahtisaari Days, an initiative that is very dear to the President.
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President Ahtisaari at the Chatham House panel discussion with fellow Elders Lahkdar Brahimi and President Carter in July 2013. Photo: Jeff Moore for the Elders
Signing of the Aceh peace agreement 2005 Photo: Jenni-Justiina Niemi
President Ahtisaari joined the Joint Steering Committee of the AU Mediation Support Capacity project in Helsinki in July 2017. Photo: Riku Isohella
Ahtisaari Days 2012, school visit in Helsinki . Photo: Saila Huusko
Finnish companies, foundations and private individuals gathered 631 877 euros for President Ahtisaari to be used in CMI’s conflict prevention and resolution work. The gift was revealed to Ahtisaari during a celebration to honour his 80th birthday in Helsinki on Thursday, June 15th, 2017.
Photo: Riku Isohella
President Ahtisaari and his good friend, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, May 22nd, 2017 at Wisdom Wanted – the Elders and CMI seminar in Helsinki. Photo: Riku Isohella
Nobel Peace Prize 2008
Photo: Hannu Lindroos