Ahtisaari, Martti Oiva Kalevi

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Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari (äkh´tēsärrē), 1937–, Finnish diplomat, political leader, and international mediator; grad. Univ. of Oulu (1959). Joining (1965) the foreign affairs ministry, he was (1973–76) Finland's ambassador to Tanzania. He served (1977–81) as UN commissioner for Namibia and from the 1970s to 1990 helped to end South African domination of the country and to oversee its journey to independence. He was also (1987–91) a UN undersecretary. In 1991 he became secretary of state in the Finnish foreign ministry and subseqently was influential in working out a peace agreement for Bosnia. A Social Democrat, Ahtisaari won the Finnish presidency in 1994. The first president elected by direct popular vote, he advocated greater Finnish involvement in international affairs and played a key role in Finland's joining (1995) the European Union. In 1999 he was involved in peace negotiations for Kosovo. Leaving office in 2000, he founded the Crisis Management Initiative, which works for worldwide security and peace through conflict resolution. In 2005 he became a UN special envoy for Kosovo, and he also has been involved in other international mediations and diplomatic missions, working to promote peace in such places as Indonesia, Northern Ireland, Central Asia, the Horn of Africa, and Iraq. In 2008 Ahtisaari received a peace prize from UNESCO and later that year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.