Calling him an “outstanding international mediator,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008 to former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari for his efforts to resolve international conflicts across the globe, including Northern Ireland, Namibia, Kosovo, Indonesia and Iraq.
His efforts over three decades, including convening secret meetings in Finland this year between warring Sunni and Shiite groups from Iraq, “have contributed to a more peaceful world and to ‘fraternity between nations’ in Alfred Nobel’s spirit,” the committee statement read in announcing the award.
“He is a world champion when it comes to peace, and he never gives up,” said Ole Danbolt Mjoes, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel awards committee.
A lifelong diplomat who heads the nongovernmental Crisis Management Initiative, Ahtisaari is known as a quiet, self-effacing negotiator willing to step out of the way until needed and then to take a firm hand and, at times, risks to broker peace.
“Martti is a brilliant negotiator and mediator with a tremendously effective personal style that combines charm and good humor with an iron determination,” said Gareth Evans, president of the International Crisis Group.
Ahtisaari, 71, told Norwegian public broadcasting NRK that he considered his work as U.N. special envoy to Namibia to be his greatest accomplishment. He shepherded the country through a decade of negotiations between South West African Peoples’ Organization guerrillas and the South African apartheid government, resulting in Namibian independence in 1990.