Nobel for Mediation

Nobel and UNESCO Peace Prize winner, President Martti Ahtisaari

Martti Ahtisaari in Aceh

- Peace is a question of will. All conflicts can be settled, former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari said when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.

Mr. Ahtisaari says that his own experience as a child influenced his determination to work towards peace. He became a refugee at the age of two, when his hometown in Finland became part of the Soviet Union.

The former Finnish diplomat worked as the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Administration and Management from 1987-1991 and as Special Representative of the Secretary General for Namibia, heading the operation which brought independence to that country in 1990.

- I am proud of Finland’s contribution to the international peacemaking and peacekeeping operations. I was very pleased that after many years of assisting Namibia in gaining its independence I had the assistance of a Finnish battalion and altogether 8000 colleagues from all over the world in a UN Transition Assistance Group UNTAG, which I led, Ahtisaari says.

Crisis Management Initiative
- When I left the Presidency of Finland, I formed a non-governmental organization called Crisis Management Initiative (CMI).  The Finnish government has been supporting us and made it possible, that when asked, we could facilitate the peace negotiations in 2005 between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement. After only six months of negotiations we managed to have a peace agreement in August 2005, and thereafter the Acehnese have enjoyed a special autonomy, recounts Ahtisaari who in 2008 was awarded the UNESCO Peace Prize.

Mr. Ahtisaari has spent more than 30 years trying to resolve conflicts around the world and is still going strong at the age of 75. The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him paved the way for Finland to make inroads in the field of mediation, for it showed that even a small and a far-away country, or the Finns as individuals, can make a distinct contribution to international peace building and mediation.

Finland has recently participated in peace building and peace mediation through various actions. For example, in 2008 CMI invited the parties of the Iraqi conflict to Finland, and the Finnish Foreign Minister mediated in the crisis in Georgia as the OSCE’s Chairman-in-Office.

Finland’s good domestic record with gender mainstreaming and political transparency also adds to its international reputation and helps build trust in Finnish mediation. Finland can claim considerable hands-on experience in resolving inter-cultural differences based, for example, on its multi-lingual institutions.

Long-standing commitment to effective multilateralism
In the international scene, Finland has a long-standing commitment to effective multilateralism. As the UN has a central role in Finnish foreign policy, it is natural that Finland places a great deal of trust in the UN in the field of mediation. The idea to advance the use of the UN mediation capabilities was co-initiated by the Foreign Ministers of Finland and Turkey in 2010. Hence, the Friends of Mediation was established to advance the use of mediation to resolve and prevent conflicts.

Friends of Mediation
Through the efforts of the Friends of Mediation Group, in June 2011, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution – the first ever resolution on mediation adopted by the General Assembly. Mediation also stands as the main theme in the 66th session of the General Assembly.