Martti Ahtisaari’s Political Accomplishments
He enjoyed a distinguished status working in the United Nations and focused on collective European security system and the Nordic cooperation. Before becoming Finland’s president, Martti served at various positions, including UN Commissioner for Namibia and as a special representative of UN Secretary General for financial matters and administration.
Martti Ahtisaari’s Early Biography
Martti Ahtisaari was born on June 23, 1937 in Viipuri, a town bordering Russia and Finland. He started his career as a diplomat working in Pakistan as a school administrator. Ahtisaari became an activist while studying business from Helsinki school of Economics and Business Administration.
He joined the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1965 and was promoted to various positions from 1965 to 1972. He focused on collective European security system, NATO, and the Nordic cooperation.
After Mauno Koivisto’s presidency, Martti Ahtisaari became an independent presidential candidate. He became the 10th president of Finland and the first to be selected under the two–round system. His father was a non–commissioned officer in service corps in Viipuri and the roots of his family links with southern Norway.
Martti’s father was part of the military forces during the Second World War, while her mother moved to Kuopio, a town in Northern Savonia, protecting him from the dangers of war. Martti Ahtisaari completed his early education in Kuopio and his childhood life was mostly spent there.
Martti Ahtisaari graduated with a two–year course that qualified him to be a school teacher through a distant learning course in 1959. After finishing the program he started teaching in Pakistan for YMCA, which exposed him to the international environment and sparked his passion for international relations.
In 1963, Martti returned to Finland and started his studies at Helsinki School of Economics. Martti was selected as executive director of Helsinki International Student Organization called AIESEC in 1964. Being a student leader of the organization, Martti learned about development aid group creation, cooperation, and talks for mutual solution of various educational problems. The organization also worked in assisting the foreign students who were arriving in Finland to study.
Working for the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs
From 1965 to 1973, Ahtisaari served as assistant department head, section head, and secretary of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs. He was the second major person in the department given his ranking. He started participating in Finnish cooperation projects with European countries and the world. A key activity of this project was community development at the village of Kiba near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Nordic countries supported the project and provided a training center for secondary school education and also gave vocational and technical training to farmers.
Martti Becomes a Father
In 1968, Martti Ahtisaari married Eva Hyvarinen, a woman he first met during his school years in Kuopio. Eva Ahtisaari worked as the secretary for cultural activities in Helsinki and divided her life between her family and work. Their first son, Marko, was born in 1969.
Martti’s family went through various changes when he was appointed as Finnish ambassador in Tanzania, and then transferred to Somalia, Zambia, and later, to Mozambique. Although Finnish representation already existed in Lusaka and Dar es Salaam, Martti was the first person to represent Finland in Mozambique and Somalia.
Martti’s Political Career
His early career in educational institutions was a good experience for him as a diplomat. However, his work in the International Department Cooperation was envied by other members of his ministry. But these members didn’t prevent the president to appoint the 36–year–old Martti Ahtisaari for this position. The social democratic experience of Martti and his undisputed work for Finland also supported their decision to appoint him in the position.
Martti worked in Tanzania from 1973 to 1977 and thoroughly studied the East African major issues that had been hindering peace and growth in the area. Martti was associated with the close monitoring of the independence process in Tanzania’s capital city, Dar es Salaam. It became an important political hub later on during the liberation movement of Namibia.
Martti gained enough popularity and support from African groups and soon after his return to Finland, he was appointed UN Commissioner for Namibia. He was tasked to positively influence African groups and be a freedom fighter for East Africa.
In 1978, Martti Ahtisaari moved to New York where his career as a peace negotiator began. Along with the independence of Namibia, he maintained a constant contact among the Organization of African Unity, SWAPO, and UN leadership at its highest levels.
Martti Returns to Finland
In the 1980s, Namibia’s independence was still yet to exist and Martti decided to return to Finland. When Martti returned Finland, the country was plagued with debates on mutual cooperation and misuse of resources. Ahtisaari was the head of the Department of International Development and Cooperation and was part of the dialogue for peace and resolution of conflicts. His participation moved the organization towards becoming more effective in dealing with conflicts around the world.
Martti Keeps Fellowship with Notorious Countries
Ahtisaari also played a major role in monitoring Namibia’s independence process and also put himself in the frontline of negotiations. UN was under pressure to withdraw its staff and focus on savings. Martti was asked to finish the processes and achieve more saving—ensuring payments from member countries along with United States.
Martti Ahtisaari also created opportunities for UN employees to rectify the misconduct in the operating procedures of the organization. The peace problem in Namibia was resolved after a cold war and parties were asked to agree on independence. Martti, as a special representative of the UN, left the country along with 8,800 military and civilian personnel. The independence process of Namibia was hindered when SWAPO soldiers entered Angola to hold positions for their election. Martti appointed the African forces, delegated and asked them to resolve the issue in the name of the United Nations.
The authorities opposed the idea, but Martti Ahtisaari won the battle through negotiation and cooperation—a core weapon of Ahtisaari for peace and stabilization. After resolving the African issues, he then returned to New York and started working in the finance and management section of the United Nations.
In Finland, he was appointed to hold the highest bureaucratic position in foreign affairs that remained vacant. This job was more pleasing for Ahtisaari as he had worked in administration, financial management, and cooperation earlier in his career.
His administrative capabilities were no doubt enough to resolve the issues, but during that time, there’s one major problem that’s needed solution in the UN—Iraq’s fate after the war. Martti Ahtisaari arranged a working party that was liable to report to United Nations about the effects of war and the solution needed to return the country to its previous working level again.
Along with other guidelines, the UN course of action was to impose tougher measures against Iraq, but Ahtisaari provided a report, which some experts found to be unsatisfactory. Nations like the USA were dropping their support. The solution to the problem came when African countries suggested a common member of Boutros-Ghali. During the same year’s conference of the United Nations, Martti Ahtisaari was appointed chairman of Bosnia Herzegovina. He also served as special advisor for Yugoslavia and representative of the UN secretary general for major issues of Yugoslavia.
Martti Becomes Finland’s President
In 1994, after enjoying a distinguished position as Finland’s Foreign Minister and in the United Nations, he was elected President of the Republic of Finland—a position which he held for four years until February 29, 2000.
Founding Crisis Management Initiative
During his presidency, Finland joined the EU and also overcame a very recessive economic time. After leaving the presidential office, he continued his career in local and international mediation, and in peacemaking as well. In 2000, Martti started a foundation called Crisis Management Initiative, where he served as chairman. The organization functions as a non–governmental crisis management group.
In 2003, Martti led the independence council of Iraq in 2003 and the Commission for Security of UN personnel in the territory. Martti was also appointed South East Asia mediator. He was also selected as UN special envoy for Africa and he worked in this position from 2003 to 2005. During his assignment in Africa, CMI staff also assisted Martti Ahtisaari. He worked with Crisis Management Initiative for Peace Solution in Indonesia in 2005 and after his great efforts, the Indonesian Government and the rebels agreed to meet in Helsinki to settle conflicts. The peace talk process continued for seven months and the committee agreed to reach a final memorandum of understanding, signed by both parties on August 15, 2005.
Martti Ahtisaari’s Kosovo Plan
Martti Ahtisaari was asked by UN Secretary–General in November of 2005 to be a mediator in Kosovo, when the situation was no longer sustainable. In March of 2007 Ahtisaari sent a settlement proposal along with his team to UN Secretary–General which led to the resolution of conflict in that region.
He also performed a central role in various NGOs as he believes that state–building, negotiation, and conflict–resolution can resolve world conflicts. He currently remains to be the chairman of Crisis Management Initiative and is also a member of the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee.
Becoming a Nobel Laureate and Joining the Elders
Martti Ahtisaari was announced as a Nobel Peace Prize winner on October 10, 2008. This Nobel Peace Award included $1.4 million of prize money along with a personal diploma and a medal. He received this prize on 10th of December 2008 in Norway. The award was to recognize his works and efforts in resolving the conflicts in Africa, Kosovo, Aceh in Indonesia, and Iraq.
In 2009, Martti Ahtisaari joined the Elders—an independent group of global leaders who are working and laying the foundation for human rights and peace. The group was brought together by African revolutionist Nelson Mandela in 2007.
In April 2011, he visited the Korean peninsula with his fellow Elders Mary Robinson, Jimmy Carter and Gro Brundtland. Ahtisaari proposed that only meaningful progress between North and South Korea is possible after a dialogue between two countries. He also visited Sudan in July 2012 as part of the Elders group delegated members to understand Sudan and South Sudan tension and offer possible solution to the conflict.
In August 2012, Martti Ahtisaari was considered one of the possible successors of Kofi Annan as mediator in the Syrian conflict, but in an interview, told that he wished to offer the position to someone else. The position was given to Lakhdar Brahimi.
Martti Ahtisaari is also promoting the entrepreneurial spirit and development of the youth through his major role in ImagineNations group. He acts chairman of the Independent Commission of Turkey and became a co–chairman of the ECFR.
- 1995: Zamenhof Prize for International Understanding
- 1998: Honorary doctorate from Helsinki University of Technology
- 2000: J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding
- 2004: OR Tambo Award
- 2007: Honorary Degree from University of St. Gallen
- 2008: Delta Prize for Global Understanding
- 2008: Nobel Peace Award
- 2011: Honorary Degree from University of Calgary
Honors Received in Finland
- Knight Cross of the Order of White Rose
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Lion
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Cross of Liberty
- Order of Holy Lamb
- Medal of St. Henrik
- Grand Crosses of the Order of the Falcon
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav
- Knight with collar of the Royal Order of the Seraphim
- Knight of the Order of the Elephant
- Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog
- Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana & Wife
- Knights Grand Cross of order of Merit of Italian Republic
- 1st Class of Order of the Three Stars
- Grand Cross of order of Vytautas the Great
- Grand Cross of the Order of Good Hope
- Order of the champions of O.R Tambo
- Sash of the Order of the Star of Romania
- Order of the White Eagle
- Order of Isabella the Catholic
- Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary
- Legion of Honor
- Order of Bath
- Order of Australia
- German Order of Merit
- Order of May
- Order of Leopold
- Order of the South Cross
- Order of Merit,
- Medal of Federation
- Mubarak Al-Kabir of Kuwait
- Order of Jaroslaw of Wife
- Order of Lions of Netherlands
- Order of Eagle of Aztecs
- Order of Mahkota Negara
- Order of Savior
- Club de Madrid
- Interpeace Governing Council
- ImagineNations Group
- Mo Ibrahim Foundation
- Martti Center of Crisis Management Initiative
- The Elders
- United Nations