Lutheran Nobel laureate Ahtisaari praised for role in Namibia’s independence

Published October 14, 2008

The general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation has praised the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Martti Ahtisaari, for his work in conflict resolution and bringing independence to the southern African nation of Namibia in 1990.”Prominent among his lifetime achievements, Martti Ahtisaari … played a key role in supporting the emergence of Namibia as a free and sovereign nation,” said Rev. Ishmael Noko, after the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced on Oct.10 that it had awarded the 2008 peace prize to the former Finnish president and U.N. diplomat.From 1977 to 2001, Mr. Ahtisaari, an active Lutheran, was the United Nations special commissioner for Namibia, the scene of armed conflict between a guerrilla movement fighting for independence and South Africa, which then ruled the territory. In 1989, he became head of the U.N. transition assistance group to bring independence to the southern African country, where at least half of the two million people are Lutheran.Mr. Noko also noted Ahtisaari’s role through the Crisis Management Initiative, which he founded, in dealing with conflict in the Indonesian province of Aceh, and as U.N. special envoy for Kosovo, the predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Serbia, which declared independence in early 2008.Announcing the award to Mr. Ahtisaari, the Nobel committee noted that he had tried to help find a peaceful conclusion to the problems in Iraq, and had also been involved in conflict resolution in Northern Ireland, Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa.1n 2007, Mr. Ahtisaari addressed the LWF’s 60th anniversary celebrations in the Swedish city of Lund, and spoke on the theme of “The House of Europe.”In the speech, he identified six pillars on which he said Europe needed to be based: unity in diversity, democracy, economic success, the reduction of social and economic disparities, education, and interfaith understanding.”This paradigm carries even sharper challenges today than when Mr Ahtisaari presented it,” Mr. Noko said in his tribute.In an interview released by the Nobel Foundation, Mr. Ahtisaari described his work in helping to bring independence to Namibia as being “perhaps my most fascinating experience.”He said he believed, “Every conflict can be solved. I think it is a disgrace for the international community that we have allowed so many conflicts to become frozen, and we are not making a serious effort to solve them.”In his interview, Mr. Ahtisaari described some general principles he believed were needed to help resolve conflict situations: “The parties must be interested in settling the conflict. Then, all those countries that have an influence on the possible solution, they have to be able to cooperate.”In addition, the chief negotiator must have a “free hand” to pick his or her colleagues, “because, very often, the organizations tend to send people that are not perhaps the most suited.”


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