The former Finnish President, Mr. Marti Ahtisaari, an international mediator who helped end various conflicts in Africa, Asia and Europe, is a natural choice for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008. Striking examples of his success in ending wars were his mediatory efforts in Namibia, Aceh, and Kosovo. As the Nobel Committee noted, the former Finnish President has worked for more than two decades to resolve long-standing conflicts. It is clear that the decision to award him the Nobel Peace Prize is viewed as an important symbolic affirmation of the crucial role that mediation plays in conflict resolution. Mr. Ahtisaari whose last significant role has been in Iraq where his own non-profit organisation sought to contribute to efforts to de-escalate the conflict, is seen as the right choice in this context where there is an increasing reliance on international mediation to defuse tensions and prevent conflicts. The Nobel Committee has noted specifically that “Ahtisaari is an outstanding international mediator” and that his “untiring efforts and good results” have shown what role mediation can play in international conflict resolution. It has been made clear by this symbolic gesture that the Nobel Committee would encourage other such public spirited individuals and groups to take up the onerous task of conflict mediation, especially in difficult situations.
Two achievements highlight Mr. Ahtisaari’s diplomatic ability to swing exogenous factors convincingly in favour of conflict resolution: the 1990-independence of Namibia in a post-apartheid milieu, and the 2005-Aceh settlement in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami. During a six-year career-break from diplomacy, as President of Finland between 1994 and 2000, he helped in ending the Kosovo war. After 2000, rather than retire to the comforts of post-Presidential life, Mr. Ahtisaari re-engaged himself in helping settle conflicts through his Helsinki-based non-profit organisation, the Crisis Management Initiative. Subsequently, he pulled off the near-impossible task of negotiating the August 15, 2005 agreement between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement. Nobel Laureate Ahtisaari now plans to address another silent socio-economic global crisis — the increasing unemployment of youth. Interestingly, the Nobel Laureate who has managed to defuse some of the world’s trickiest and most complex situations, considers his next assignment of finding jobs for the world’s youth “the world’s greatest challenge” because otherwise these unemployed youngsters would be prime targets for “criminals and terrorists.”