Geuzen Medal 2008 for Martti Ahtisaari|
Vlaardingen, 10 January 2008
The Geuzen Medal 2008 is awarded to President Martti Ahtisaari. Ahtisaari is a dedicated and expert mediator in many international conflicts and civil wars and the tenth president of Finland. The Geuzenpenning will be presented on Thursday 13 March in Vlaardingen.
President Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari (Finland, 1937) is particularly known for his mediation in Namibia, Aceh and Kosovo, leading the transition process in Namibia at the end of the 1980s and facilitating a peace treaty between the Indonesian government and the insurgents in Aceh. From 2005 to 2008, Ahtisaari was regularly in the news because of his plan for the political future of Kosovo.
UN envoy Namibia
In 1973 Ahtisaari was appointed as ambassador of Finland in Tanzania and since 1975 in a number of other African countries. During this period, he made contact with SWAPO, the Namibian liberation movement. Between 1977 and 1981, Ahtisaari served as United Nations Commissioner for Namibia.
Following his later appointment as under-secretary-general of the United Nations in New York, Ahtisaari continued to act as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Namibia, exploring possibilities for the country’s independence. In 1989, Ahtisaari led a United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia. This successful mission resulted in Namibia holding free elections for the first time at the end of 1989, under the supervision of UNTAG. Namibia became independent on 21 March 1990.
President of Finland
In 1994 Ahtisaari was elected President of Finland, which he remained until 2000. His presidency had a number of important highlights. One of these was Finland’s accession to the European Union, a move supported by 56% of the Finnish population in a referendum. Ahtisaari also arranged a summit between American President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. In addition he mediated in the war in Kosovo in 1999. In 2000, Ahtisaari decided not to seek re-election for a second term.
After his presidency
After his presidency, Ahtisaari occupied various positions. In 2000, the British government appointed Ahtisaari to inspect the IRA’s arms’ dump with fellow inspector Cyril Ramaphosa from South Africa. All the positions occupied by Ahtisaari have one thing in common: they promote world peace. His work in this field did not go by unnoticed. On 1 December Ahtisaari was awarded the J. William Fulbright Prize for his work as peacemaker in some of the world’s most troubled areas.
One of the most prominent activities of Ahtisaari’s post-presidential period was his mediation in the crisis in Aceh. Ahtisaari’s efforts brought an end to the thirty year war in Aceh during which rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) had been fighting for independence from Jakarta.
The Tsunami on Boxing Day 2004 also hit Aceh, where over 200,000 people died. It proved to be a turning point. Peace negotiations were started at the end of January 2005. Ahtisaari drew up a treaty which was acceptable to both the GAM and the Indonesian government.
Another important issue in which Ahtisaari played a crucial role was the Kosovo crisis. In November2005, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Ahtisaari as Special Envoy for Kosovo. His task was to determine whether Kosovo should become independent or remain a province of Serbia. In early 2007 he accordingly presented a plan. In a 60 page ‘Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement’, the UN special envoy set out Kosovo’s path to independence. Due to Russia's persistent opposition to the separation of Kosovo from Serbia, negotiations faltered in July 2007. The process was transferred to a delegation of the European Union, the United States and Russia, which ultimately came to the same conclusion as Ahtisaari: it was impossible to reach a compromise about the status of Kosovo, about which there is still no clarity.
Crisis Management Initiative
In order to better apply his expertise in the field of world peace, in 2000 Ahtisaari founded Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), an independent non-profit organisation that promotes and works for sustainable security in the world. Through crisis management and conflict resolution, CMI works to strengthen the capacity of the international community to deal with international disputes, building on wide social and political stakeholder networks in the region.
The presentation of the Geuzen Medal (‘Geuzenpenning’) is an initiative of the Geuzen Resistance 1940-1945 Foundation. Since 1987, the foundation has annually presented a Geuzen Medal to honour people and/or organisations that have been dedicated to supporting democracy or opposing dictatorships, discrimination and racism. Previous laureates have included the German President Von Weizsäcker, the Anne Frank Stichting, Czech President Václav Havel, the kidnapped Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and the International Campaign for Tibet.
Note for editors (not intended for publication)
For further information contact the chairman of the Geuzen Resistance 1940-1945 Foundation, Mr H.C.J.L. Borghouts, telephone (023) 514 4347 and Mr H. Mathijssen of the Municipality of Vlaardingen, telephone (010) 434 3900.