Martti Ahtisaari, former diplomat and politician, is an international trouble-shooter. Over the past two decades he has worked under a variety of mandates to attempt to bring a peaceful end to conflicts in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Few people have gained such a broad understanding of the intricacies of managing conflict resolution.
Ahtisaari insists that all conflicts are essentially solvable, and believes that it is the duty of the international community to intervene to prevent injustice. His approach is founded on the idea that one should never avoid the hard questions for the sake of reaching a swift but shallow agreement. His experiences have led him to formulate a number of principles underlying successful crisis resolution, including the need for rapid reaction, the importance of consistency of approach in different locations, the value of reconciliation and the necessity of an all-inclusive approach to negotiations that brings all concerned parties into discussions from the outset.
Ahtisaari’s mediation has helped diffuse seemingly intractable conflicts across the globe. He was instrumental in helping to bring about Namibia’s eventual independence from South Africa after long years of war. His brokering of a peace agreement between the Indonesian government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement led to the 2005 Aceh Peace Accord, after almost 30 years of conflict. In the former Yugoslavia, Ahtisaari first helped to mediate an end to the war in Kosovo in the late 1990s, and more recently, as United Nations Special Envoy, he sought to find a solution to the problem caused by the majority Albanian population’s desire for independence from Serbia. In this case, however, the internationally monitored independence he proposed for Kosovo was not adopted, and the prolonged international deadlock led to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in early 2008.
In 2000, upon retiring from the Finnish Presidency, Ahtisaari founded the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), an independent, Helsinki-based, non-profit organization. CMI aims to work alongside the international community to promote innovative approaches to conflict resolution, through a combination of “analysis, action and advocacy”. It has already assisted in the Aceh negotiations, and is involved in ongoing efforts to bring about sustainable peace in Iraq.
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