Nobel peace prize for ‘stubborn’ Finn

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Martti Ahtisaari, the Finnish diplomat who has successfully banged heads together to end many conflicts from southern Africa to Indonesia to the Balkans.

The former Finnish president credits his ability for solving ancient and bitter disputes to his childhood wanderings as a victim of the Second World War. "I was born in the city of Viipuri, then still part of Finland," Mr Ahtisaari, 71, said recently. "We lost Viipuri when the Soviet Union attacked my country. Along with 400,000 Karelians I became an eternally displaced person in the rest of Finland. With my mother, I moved from one household to another. This experience, which millions of people around the world have gone through, provided me with sensitivity, which explains my desire to advance peace and thus help others who have gone through similar experiences."

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it was giving Mr Ahtisaari the prize "for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts. These efforts have contributed to a more peaceful world and to 'fraternity between nations' in Alfred Nobel's spirit."

The committee chairman, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, said Mr Ahtisaari had shown his sisu – the Finnish word for "guts" or the stubborn determination considered a trait of the Finns. "He is a world champion when it comes to peace and he never gives up."

A former primary school teacher, Mr Ahtisaari joined Finland's Foreign Service in 1965 and went on to work for the United Nations for 30 years. In between, he also served as president of Finland, from 1994 to 2000. He told Norwegian TV that he was "very pleased and grateful" to receive the prize, and he hoped the $1.4m (£820,000) prize money would help finance Crisis Management International, the peace-making organisation he founded in 2000.

Gareth Evans, president of the International Crisis Group, said he was delighted for the Finnish diplomat who chaired the think-tank from 2000 to 2004. "He has an extraordinary combination of personal qualities, of great charm and great good humour with iron determination. He's not the sort of diplomat who remains Delphic, everyone knows where he stands."

In 2005, he brokered an agreement between the government of Indonesia and the Aceh separatist guerrillas, ending a conflict that had lasted 140 years. "He was a kind of father figure," said Mr Evans, "very stern, very determined, brooking no nonsense on either side, but also very endearing in his personal qualities. It's an extraordinarily successful combination, and he should have got the award years ago".

For Mr Ahtisaari, it was his work in Namibia that was "absolutely the most important … because it took such a long time". His involvement lasted from 1977 to 1990 and culminated in Namibia's independence from South Africa.

The finest fruit of his long years as a peacemaker in the Balkans was perhaps the independence of Kosovo, which was achieved bloodlessly. The Kosovar Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, said the Nobel prize was "the right decision for the right man" and said Mr Ahtisaari had the nation's appreciation.

Mr Ahtisaari is the first European to win the prize in a decade. Today he declared that his next project would be tackling youth unemployment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing