Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Martti Ahtisaari, Finnish top diplomat

Friday, October 10, 2008

Martti Ahtisaari served as president of Finland for six years.

The Nobel Peace Committee announced that Martti Ahtisaari, former president and Finnish diplomat, has received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008.

Norway's Nobel committee praised Martti Ahtisaari for his efforts to help secure peace in a number of conflict torn countries during his lengthy career as a United Nations diplomat, Finnish president and later, peace activist with his organization, the Crisis Management Initiative.

Over the past 20 years, the Nobel statement said, Ahtisaari has played a prominent role in resolving serious and long-lasting conflicts in Namibia, Indonesia, Kosovo and Iraq - among other areas.

In an interview on Norwegian television, Ahtisaari cited peace talks in 1989-1990 in the southwestern African nation of Namibia as his greatest achievement. Those talks helped pave the way for Namibia's independence from South Africa.

Ahtisaari began his career as a school teacher before joining Finland's foreign ministry. He served as a United Nations undersecretary and secretary of state for the Finnish foreign ministry before being elected president of Finland in 1994.

Ahtisaari founded the Crisis Management Initiative in 2000. The Helsinki-based non-profit organization provides solutions for ending conflicts around the world.

Former United States Vice-President Al Gore won last year's Nobel peace prize along with the U.N. panel on climate change for their work on raising attention to the threat of global warming.

Prior to the announcement Chinese human rights activists were high on the lists of speculations about the prospective receivers. Norwegian lawyer, author and activist, Fredrik Heffermehl published a book criticising the interpretation of the will of Nobel, just a few days prior to October 10. His interpretation is that human rights activists do not fall within the scope of the prize. Even peace mediators fall on the very edge, if the intentions of Alfred Nobel are to be taken seriously. Heffermehl points to former United States senator Sam Nunn as a long-term and 2008 nominee to the Nobel Peace Prize, that has worked much more clearly in line with the will of Nobel. Sam Nunn is an activist for disarmament of Soviets arsenals left in Russia.

Some commentators of the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize, criticise the Committee, for not daring to stand up to the Chinese. The Danish peace researcher Øberg, however criticises the choice of Ahtisaari, the recipient of the prize for 2008, because of his role in the Balkans, claiming that the work of Ahtisaari added to hostilities there, instead of reducing them. Furthermore Øberg, says the Nobel Peace Committee is not comprised of experts in the relevant field, unlike the committees for the scientific prizes.