Martti Ahtisaari

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Martti Ahtisaari, President of Finland (1994-2000)

Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari (born 23 June 1937) is a Finnish politician, the tenth President of Finland (1994-2000), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and United Nations diplomat and mediator, noted for his international peace work.

Martti Ahtisaari was United Nations Commissioner for Namibia (1977-1981) when the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 435 in 1978 requiring a cease-fire and UN-supervised elections in the South African-controlled territory. Following the death of a successor UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, on Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988, Ahtisaari was appointed UN Special Representative in Namibia and supervised its independence elections in November 1989.

In 1993, he was appointed Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on former Yugoslavia, but a year later was elected president of Finland on a social democrat ticket. Acting for the EU, in 1999 Mr Ahtisaari helped persuade then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept Nato's terms for ending the war in Kosovo. Martti Ahtisaari decided to bow out of Finnish politics in 2000, setting up the Crisis Management Initiative which works to promote peace and crisis resolution. He remains its chairman.[1]

In October 2008, Martti Ahtisaari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his efforts on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts".[2][3]

Youth and early career

Martti Ahtisaari was born in Viipuri, Finland (now Vyborg, Russia). His father, Oiva Ahtisaari (whose grandfather Julius Marenius Adolfsen had emigrated with his parents to Finland in 1872 from Tistedalen in Southern Norway) took Finnish citizenship in 1929 and changed his surname from Adolfsen in 1937. The Continuation War (World War II) took Martti's father to the front as a non-commissioned officer army mechanic, while his mother, Tyyne, moved to Kuopio with her son to escape immediate danger from the war.[4] Kuopio was where Ahtisaari spent most of his childhood, eventually attending the Kuopion Lyseo high school.

In 1952, Martti Ahtisaari moved to Oulu with his family to seek employment. There he continued his education in Oulun high school, graduating in 1952. He also joined the local YMCA. After completing his military service (Ahtisaari holds the rank of Captain in the Finnish Army Reserve), he began to study through a distance-learning course at Oulu teachers' college. He was able to live at home while attending the two-year course which enabled him to qualify as a primary-school teacher in 1959. Besides his native language, Finnish, Ahtisaari speaks Swedish, French, English, and German.

In 1960, he moved to Karachi, Pakistan, to lead the YMCA's physical education training establishment, where he became accustomed to a more international environment. In addition to managing the students' home, Ahtisaari's job involved training teachers. He returned to Finland in 1963, and became active in non-governmental organisations responsible for aid to developing countries. He joined the international students' organization AIESEC, where he discovered new passions about diversity and diplomacy. In 1965, he joined the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in its Bureau for International Development Aid, eventually becoming the assistant head of the department. In 1968, he married Eeva Irmeli Hyvärinen (1936–). The couple has one son, Marko Ahtisaari, a noted musician and producer.

Diplomatic career

Ahtisaari spent several years as a diplomatic representative from Finland. From 1977 to 1981, he served as United Nations Commissioner for Namibia, working to secure the independence of Namibia from apartheid South Africa.

Following the death of a successor UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, on Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988 – on the eve of the signing of the Tripartite Accord at United Nations headquarters  – Ahtisaari was sent to Namibia in April 1989 as the UN Special Representative to head the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG). Because of an incursion of SWAPO members from Angola, the South African appointed Administrator-General (AG), Louis Pienaar, sought Ahtisaari's agreement to the deployment of SADF troops to stabilise the situation. Ahtisaari took advice from British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who was visiting the region at the time, and approved the SADF deployment.[5]

In July 1989, Glenys Kinnock and Tessa Blackstone of the British Council of Churches visited Namibia and reported:

"There is a widespread feeling that too many concessions were made to South African personnel and preferences and that Martti Ahtisaari was not forceful enough in his dealings with the South Africans."[6]

A review of Glenys Kinnock's book "Namibia: A Birth of a Nation" stated:

"Interesting criticism of UN Special Representative in Namibia, Martti Ahtisaari, by Baroness Kinnock. She says that Ahtisaari was leant on by the apartheid regime to allow the South African Defence Force to attack members of SWAPO who were peacefully returning to vote in Namibia's Independence Election.[7] As a result of Ahtisaari's acquiescence, as many as 308 SWAPO soldiers were killed - 'shot in the back' - according to former SADF major Nico Basson.[8]

Perhaps because of his keenness in authorising this SADF deployment, Ahtisaari was alleged to have been targeted by an uncharacteristically ineffective South African Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB). According to a hearing in September 2000 of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, two CCB operatives (Kobus le Roux and Ferdinand Barnard) were tasked not to kill Ahtisaari, but to give him "a good hiding". To carry out the assault, Barnard had planned to use the grip handle of a metal saw as a knuckleduster. In the event, Ahtisaari did not attend the meeting at the Keetmanshoop Hotel, where Le Roux and Barnard lay in wait for him, and thus Ahtisaari escaped injury.[9]

After the independence elections of 1989, Ahtisaari was appointed an honorary Namibian citizen. South Africa gave him the Oliver Tambo award for "his outstanding achievement as a diplomat and commitment to the cause of freedom in Africa and peace in the world".[10]

Martti Ahtisaari served as UN Under-Secretary-General for administration and management from 1987 to 1991 causing mixed feelings inside the organisation during an internal investigation of massive fraud. When Ahtisaari revealed in 1990 that he had secretly lengthened the grace period allowing UN officials to return misappropriated taxpayer money from the original three months to three years, the investigators were furious. The 340 officials found guilty of fraud were able to return money even after their crime had been proven. The harshest punishment was the firing of twenty corrupt officials.[11][12]

President of Finland

Ahtisaari's presidential campaign in Finland began when he was still a member of the council dealing with Bosnia. Finland's ongoing recession caused established political figures to lose public support, and the presidential elections were now direct, instead of being conducted through an electoral college. In 1993, Ahtisaari accepted the candidacy of the Social Democratic Party. His politically untarnished image was a major factor in the election, as was his vision of Finland as an active participant in international affairs. Ahtisaari narrowly won over his second round opponent, Elisabeth Rehn of the Swedish People's Party. During the campaign, there were rumours spread by some political opponents of Ahtisaari that he had a drinking problem or that he had knowingly accepted a double salary from the Finnish Foreign Ministry and from the United Nations while trying to negotiate an end to the Bosnian War. Ahtisaari denied both allegations and no firm proof of them has emerged. During the three-week campaign between the two rounds of presidential elections, Ahtisaari was praised by his supporters for being more compassionate towards the many unemployed Finns than Rehn, who as Defence Minister had to officially support the Aho government's strict economic policies. A minor scandal arose during a town hall-style presidential debate in Lappeenranta, southeastern Finland, when an apparently born-again Christian woman in the audience asked Rehn what her relationship with Jesus was. Rehn replied that she had personally no proof that Jesus had been a historical person. Ahtisaari ducked a precise answer by stating that he trusted the Lutheran confession even on this issue.[13][14][15]

His term as president began with a schism within the Centre Party government led by prime minister Esko Aho, who did not approve of Ahtisaari's being actively involved in foreign policy. There was also some controversy over Ahtisaari's speaking out on domestic issues such as unemployment. He travelled extensively in Finland and abroad, and was nicknamed "Matka-Mara" ("Travel-Mara," Mara being a common diminutive form of Martti). His monthly travels throughout the country and his meetings with ordinary citizens (the so-called maakuntamatkat or "provincial trips") nonetheless greatly enhanced his political popularity. Ahtisaari kept his campaign promise to visit one Finnish historical province every month during his presidency. He also donated some thousands of Finnish marks per month to the unemployed people's organisations, and a few thousand Finnish marks to the Christian social organisation of the late lay preacher and social worker Veikko Hursti.[16][17]

Ahtisaari favoured pluralism and religious tolerance publicly. Privately, he and his wife practice their Christian faith. Contrary to some of his predecessors and his successor as the Finnish President, Ahtisaari ended all of his New Year's speeches by wishing the Finnish people God's blessing.[18]

In January 1998 Ahtisaari was criticised by some NGOs, politicians and notable cultural figures because he awarded medals of honour to the Forest Minister of Indonesia and to the main owner of the Indonesian RGM Company, a parent company of the April Company. The April Company was criticised by non-governmental organizations for destroying rain forests, and Indonesia itself was criticised heavily for human right violations, especially in East Timor. Ahtisaari's party chairman Erkki Tuomioja said that giving medals was questionable since he feared the act may tarnish the public image of Finnish human rights policy. Students of the arts had demonstrations in Helsinki against the decision to give medals.[19][20]

President Ahtisaari supported Finland's entry into the European Union, and in a 1994 referendum, 57 percent of Finnish voters were in favour of EU membership.[21] During Ahtisaari's term as president, Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton met in Helsinki. He also negotiated alongside Viktor Chernomyrdin with Slobodan Milošević to end the fighting in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo in 1999.

Often encountering resistance from the Finnish parliament, which preferred a more cautious foreign policy, as well as from within his own party, Ahtisaari did not seek re-election in 2000. He wanted the Social Democrats to re-nominate him for the presidency without opposition, but two opponents signed up for the party's presidential primary.[22] Ahtisaari was the last "strong president", since the 2000 Constitution slightly reduced the president's powers. He was succeeded by the foreign minister Tarja Halonen.

Post-presidential career

In Finnish politics, Ahtisaari has stressed how important it is for Finland to join NATO.[23] Ahtisaari has argued that Finland should be a full member of NATO and the EU in order "to shrug off once and for all the burden of Finlandisation".[24] He believes politicians should file application and make Finland a member. He says that the way Finnish politicians avoid expressing their opinion is disturbing.[25] He has noted that the so-called "NATO option" is an illusion, making an analogy to trying to obtain fire insurance when the fire has already started.[26]

Since leaving office, Ahtisaari has held positions in various international organisations. Ahtisaari also founded the independent Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) with the goal of developing and sustaining peace in troubled areas. On 1 December 2000, Ahtisaari was awarded the William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding in recognition of his work as peacemaker in some of the world's most troubled areas.

In 2000–01, Ahtisaari and South African politician Cyril Ramaphosa inspected Provisional IRA weapons dumps for the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.[27]

In 2005, Ahtisaari successfully led peace negotiations between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government through his non-governmental organisation CMI. The negotiations ended on 15 August 2005 with the signing of the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding on the disarmament of GAM rebels, the dropping of GAM demands for an independent Aceh, and a withdrawal of Indonesian forces.[28]

In November 2005, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Ahtisaari as Special Envoy for the Kosovo status process which was to determine whether Kosovo, having been administered by the United Nations since 1999, should become independent or remain a province of Serbia. In early 2006, Ahtisaari opened the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo (UNOSEK) in Vienna, Austria, from where he conducted the Kosovo status negotiations. Those opposed to Ahtisaari's settlement proposal, which involved an internationally monitored independence for Kosovo, sought to discredit him. Allegations made by Balkan media sources of corruption and improper conduct by Ahtisaari were described by US State Department spokesman Tom Casey as "spurious", adding that Ahtisaari's plan is the "best solution possible" and has the "full endorsement of the United States".[29] The New York Times suggested that this criticism of Ahtisaari on the part of the Serbs had led to the "bogging down" of the Kosovo status talks.[30] In November 2008, Serbian media reported Pierre Mirel, director of the EU enlargement commission's western Balkans division as saying: "The EU has accepted that the deployment of EULEX has to be approved by the United Nations Security Council, and that the mission has to be neutral and will not be related to the Ahtisaari plan," Mirel said, following his meeting with Serbia's vice-president Bozidar Djelic.[31]

In July 2007, however, when the EU, Russia and the United States agreed to find a new format for the talks, Ahtisaari announced that he regarded his mission as over. Since neither the UN nor the troika had asked him to continue mediations in the face of Russia's persistent refusal to support independence for Kosovo, he said he would nonetheless be willing to take on "a role as consultant", if requested.[32] After a period of uncertainty and mounting tension, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008.[33]

In his work, he has emphasised the importance of the United States in the peace process, stating that "There can be no peace without America."[34]

As a former Head of State, Ahtisaari is a member of the Club de Madrid which is an independent non-profit organisation composed of 81 democratic former Presidents and Prime Ministers from 57 different countries. It constitutes the world´s largest forum of former Heads of State and Government, who have come together to respond to a growing demand for support among leaders in democratic leadership, governance, crisis and post-crisis situations. "All lines of work share the common goal of building functional and inclusive societies, where the leadership experience of our Members is most valuable."[35]

Ahtisaari was chairman of the Interpeace Governing Council from 2000-2009.[36][37] Since 2009, Ahtisaari has been Chairman Emeritus and a Special Advisor.[38]

Ahtisaari is board director of the Imagine Nations Group.[39]

In 2008 Ahtisaari was awarded an honorary degree by University College, London. That same year he received the 2007 UNESCO Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize, for "his lifetime contribution to world peace".[40]

In September 2009 Ahtisaari joined "The Elders Organisation",[41] a group of independent global leaders who work together on peace and human rights issues. He travelled to the Korean Peninsula with fellow Elders Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson in April 2011,[42] and to South Sudan with Robinson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in July 2012.[43]

Ahtisaari is a member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation's Ibrahim Prize Committee. He is also a member of the board of the European Council on Foreign Relations.[44]

In August 2012, Ahtisaari opined on the political violence in Syria and was mentioned as a possible replacement as Joint Envoy there to succeed former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan.[45][46] However, Ahtisaari then told the Finnish state broadcaster YLE that "he wished the mission would fall on someone else"[47] which it ultimately did in the person of Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister and longtime U.N. diplomat.[48]

Nobel Peace Prize

Tony Blair and Martti Ahtisaari having a laugh

Twenty years after Lockerbie, Martti Ahtisaari was awarded the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.[49] The award included a medal, a personal diploma, and 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.4 million) in prize money. Ahtisaari received the prize on 10 December 2008 at Oslo City Hall in Norway. In his acceptance speech, Nobel laureate Ahtisaari did not explain why all the companies (eg Rio Tinto Group and De Beers) and all the countries (eg Britain and apartheid South Africa) that had been illegally exploiting Namibia's mineral wealth over decades in defiance of the decree from the UN Council of Namibia remain unpunished.[50]

Martti Ahtisaari twice worked to find a solution in Kosovo  – first in 1999 and again between 2005 and 2007. He also worked with others in 2008 year to find a peaceful solution to the problems in Iraq, the Nobel Committee said. According to the Committee, Ahtisaari and his group, Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), also contributed to resolving other conflicts in Northern Ireland, Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa.[51][52][53]

References

  1. "Profile: Martti Ahtisaari"
  2. "2008 Nobel Peace Prize"
  3. "Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari Wins Nobel Peace Prize"
  4. "President Ahtisaari's ancestors"
  5. "Shaky start on the road to Namibia's independence"
  6. "Namibia: A Birth of a Nation"
  7. "Glenys Kinnock critical of Martti Ahtisaari"
  8. "Missing diplomatic links and the Lockerbie tragedy"
  9. "Targeted by the Civil Cooperation Bureau"
  10. "Outstanding achievement award"
  11. Sainio, Pentti: Operaatio Ahtisaari. Art House, 1993
  12. The Independent On Sunday May 19, 1991
  13. Mitä Missä Milloin — Kansalaisen vuosikirja 1995 ("What Where When — Citizen's Yearbook 1995"), Helsinki: Otava Publications Ltd., 1994.
  14. Anja Snellman and Saska Saarikoski, "The Third Round" / Kolmas kierros, published in Finland in 1994.
  15. Pertti Sainio, "Secret Operation Ahtisaari" / Operaatio Salainen Ahtisaari, published in Finland in 1993.
  16. Mitä Missä Milloin — Kansalaisen vuosikirjat 1995, 2000, 2001 ("What Where When — Citizen's Yearbooks 1995, 2000, 2001")
  17. Veikko Hursti, "For I Was Hungry ..." / Sillä minun oli nälkä ... (autobiography), published in Finland in 1997.
  18. The speeches are available in electronic form from Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE's Living Archives, "YLE's Living Archives"
  19. Helsingin Sanomat, kotimaa, 1998 January 15, p. 1, "Mielenosoitus: Kunniamerkit takaisin Indonesiasta".
  20. Helsingin Sanomat, Talous, 2000 March 21, p. 3., "Ahtisaari saanee vastaehdokkaan UPM:n hallitus-vaaliin" (tässä jutussa on vain Luontoliiton osuus).
  21. Mitä Missä Milloin — Kansalaisen vuosikirja 1996 ("What Where When — Citizen's Yearbook 1996"), Helsinki: Otava Publications Ltd., 1995.
  22. Mitä Missä Milloin — Kansalaisen vuosikirja 2000 ("What Where When — Citizen's Yearbook 2000"), Helsinki: Otava Publications Ltd., 1999.
  23. "Martti Ahtisaari Wants Finland in Nato". YLE. 2008-10-11
  24. "Former President Ahtisaari: NATO membership would put an end to Finlandisation murmurs"
  25. "Ahtisaari NATO-kansanäänestystä vastaan". MTV3
  26. Uutiset: Presidentti Martti Ahtisaari 23.11.2007: Nato-optio on illuusio
  27. "Reports of the Weapons Inspectors"
  28. "Helsinki MOU"
  29. "US State Department press briefing"
  30. "Serbs Criticize UN Mediator, Further Bogging Down Kosovo Talks"
  31. "EU accepts Belgrade's conditions for EULEX"
  32. "Contact Group Meets on Kosovo's Future as Tensions Rise"
  33. "US Pleased With Post-Independence Progress In Kosovo"
  34. cite book|last=Cord|first=David J.|title=Mohamed 2.0: Disruption Manifesto|Mohamed 2.0|year=2012|publisher=Schildts & Söderströms|location=Helsingfors|isbn=978-951-52-2898-7|pages=156
  35. "The Club of Madrid"
  36. John A. Kufuor Foundation "Interpeace" Retrieved on 27 January 2012
  37. "IDRC Partner Awarded Nobel Peace Prize" Retrieved on 3 February 2012
  38. "Governing Council of Interpeace" Retrieved on 27 January 2012
  39. "Martti Ahtisaari and Imagine Nations" Retrieved on 3 February 2012
  40. Valtioneuvosto – "Ahtisaari received the UNESCO Peace Prize"
  41. "Martti Ahtisaari joins The Elders"
  42. "Carter, 3 other ex-leaders to push for renewed Koreas talks"
  43. "The Elders visit South Sudan in sombre mood and urge continued dialogue with Khartoum"
  44. "European Council on Foreign Relations"
  45. "General Assembly adopts Resolution on Syria", transcript of UK Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant’s remarks at the 'stakeout' after adoption of the resolution, British UN Mission website, 3 August 2012. Ahtisaari's name only mentioned in a media question. No comment from Grant. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  46. "‘Crazy’ Enough to Take on Syria?", The New York Times, 3 August 2012. Posted 2012-08-03.
  47. "Ahtisaari Syyria-tehtävästä: Toivoisin, että se menisi jonnekin muualle"
  48. "UN: Algeria’s Brahimi will replace Annan in Syria", AP via New York Daily News, 17 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
  49. "2008 Nobel Peace Prize laureates"
  50. "Lockerbie bombing: The 'Finnish Question'"
  51. "Ahtisaari finally wins his own Nobel Peace Prize"
  52. "Nobel Peace Prize goes to peace broker Ahtisaari"
  53. "The Nobel Peace Prize 2008 awarded to Martti Ahtisaari"


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