Martti Ahtisaari, Former Finnish President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dies at 86

AP file photo
Martti Ahtisaari, UN Special Representative for Namibia, speaks at a press conference where he declared that the voting in Namibia had been free and fair, Saturday, Nov. 11, 1989.

HELSINKI (AP) — Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland and global peace broker awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 for his work to resolve international conflicts, died Monday. He was 86.

The foundation he created for preventing and resolving violent conflicts said in a statement it was “deeply saddened by the loss of its founder and chair of board.”

“It is with great sadness that we have received the news of the death of President Martti Ahtisaari,” Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said in a statement. “He was president in times of change, who piloted Finland into a global EU era.”

In 2021, it was announced that Ahtisaari had advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

Among his most notable achievements, Ahtisaari helped reach peace accords related to Serbia’s withdrawal from Kosovo in the late 1990s, Namibia’s bid for independence in the 1980s, and autonomy for Aceh province in Indonesia in 2005. He was also involved with the Northern Ireland peace process in the late 1990s, being tasked with monitoring terrorist group IRA’s disarmament process.

When the Norwegian Nobel Peace Committee picked Ahtisaari in October 2008, it cited him “for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts.”

Ahtisaari who was the Nordic country’s president for one six-year term — 1994 until 2000 — later founded the Helsinki-based Crisis Management Initiative, aimed at preventing and resolving violent conflicts through informal dialogue and mediation.

CMI said Ahtisaari will be laid to rest in a state funeral. The date will be announced later.