Peter Wallensteen’s phone began ringing Friday morning (Oct. 10) after the Nobel Committee announced that Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, had won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Wallensteen, a research professor at the Kroc Institute and a peace researcher from Uppsala University in Sweden, spent much of the day answering calls from European journalists asking him to comment on the Nobel Committee’s decision. He also addressed the issue on Swedish national television. (In above right photo, Wallensteen introduces Ahtisaari at a lecture at Uppsala University in Sweden earlier this year. Photo byTommy Westberg)
Wallensteen believes Ahtisaari was a good choice. “He has a very special, straightforward style of mediation that is rather unusual,” said Wallensteen, who in September returned to Sweden to introduce Ahtisaari to nearly 800 students on the occasion of the annual Dag Hammarskjold lecture. “He’s known as being very effective in moving difficult negotiations forward in conflict zones around the world.”
As UN envoy to Namibia during its fight for liberation from South Africa, Ahtisaari played an important role in bringing independence to the country and prompting “the beginning of the end of apartheid,” Wallensteen said. In Indonesia after the tsunami, Ahtisaari negotiated an end to a 30-year-old conflict between the government and separatists guerrillas in Aceh. In the former Yugoslavia, Ahtisaari crafted a compromise regarding the settlement of Kosovo. Although Serbia rejected the proposal and Kosovo declared independence prematurely, Ahtisaair’s work may have made it possible to prevent a relapse into war, Wallensteen said.
Ahtisaari also was involved in the decommissioning of weapons Northern Ireland. This year he orchestrated secret peace talks in Helsinski, Finland, between Sunni and Shiite groups from Iraq.
The Nobel Committee’s choice is a return to honoring traditional peace work such as mediation, Wallensteen said. Before selecting Al Gore last year for his work on climate change, the committee had awarded the prize to master-mediators Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan.
Contact: Peter Wallensteen, (574) 631-0935, email@example.com