To achieve a more peaceful global community, the world needs wise and thoughtful leaders who can facilitate respectful and productive communication among peoples with conflicting interests. Such a leader is Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and recipient of the 2008 Delta Prize for Global Understanding.
The University of Georgia and Delta Air Lines honor President Ahtisaari for his leadership in the promotion of peace in the Horn of Africa, Northern Ireland, Indonesia, Kosovo, and Central Asia.
In May of 2006, the Christian Science Monitor published an article on Kosovo titled “Got Conflict? Mr. Ahtisaari is Your Man.” Its author wrote: “The reputation of the self-deprecating former Finnish president as an impartial mediator has made him the world’s ‘go-toguy’ for international crises.”
Mr. Ahtisaari’s achievements on behalf of peace are extensive. In the late 1980s, Mr. Ahtisaari led United Nations efforts to liberate Namibia from South African rule. His efforts enabled Namibia to achieve independence in 1990, for which he was honored by South Africa for “his outstanding achievement as a diplomat and [his] commitment to the cause of freedom in Africa and peace in the world.”
In 1991, Mr. Ahtisaari led the UN mission to evaluate the humanitarian and economic conditions in post-Gulf War Iraq.
After serving as President of Finland from 1994 to 2000, Mr. Ahtisaari joined a team of inspectors appointed by the British government to oversee the decommissioning of IRA weapons in Northern Ireland.
In that same year, 2000, Mr. Ahtisaari founded the Crisis Management Initiative, an independent, non-governmental organization whose purpose is to create sustainable security among inhabitants of politically troubled regions of the world. Mr. Ahtisaari and the Crisis Management Initiative negotiated the peace agreement between the government of Indonesia and the rebel forces of Aceh that was signed on August 15, 2005.
Also in 2005, Mr. Ahtisaari became the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the future status of Kosovo.
Mr. Ahtisaari is the “go-to-guy” for mediation of international conflicts because he has won the world’s admiration for enabling the parties of a dispute to understand each other better. That mutual understanding forms the foundation for peaceful interaction.
Accordingly, for a lifetime spent in helping the world’s diverse peoples to understand one another better, we are delighted to give the 2008 Delta Prize for Global Understanding to President Martii Ahtisaari.