Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, won this year`s Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to resolve international hostilities, returning the award to its traditional aim of honoring people who work to end conflicts, Bloomberg informed.
Ahtisaari, 71, was awarded the prize for ``his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades,`` the Oslo-based committee said today. He is the first Finn to win the prize.
Ahtisaari played a ``significant part`` in bringing independence to Namibia in 1989-90, was central to resolving the ``complicated`` situation in Indonesia`s Aceh province in 2005, and helped solve the conflict in Kosovo in 1999 and again in 2005 to 2007, according to the Nobel committee statement.
``I`m very satisfied and thankful for the decision they made,`` Ahtisaari said in a phone interview with Norwegian broadcaster NRK. ``Namibia was absolutely the most important because it took such a long time. But Aceh and Kosovo were also both important.``
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and a United Nations panel on the environment won last year`s prize for raising awareness about the threat of climate change. Bangladesh`s Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank won in 2006 for giving loans to the poor. In 2005, the International Atomic Energy Agency and its head won for preventing the military use of nuclear energy and Kenya`s Wangari Maathai was the first environmentalist to win in 2004.
Work On Iraq
Ahtisaari founded Crisis Management Initiative, a non-profit peace brokering organization, in 2000 after a six-year term as president of Finland. His work included chairing an independent panel on the security and safety of UN personnel in Iraq.
``Throughout his entire adult life, Ahtisaari has worked endlessly to solve several long-lasting conflicts,`` said Ole Danbolt Mjoes, chairman of the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee. ``He`s an outstanding international mediator. His efforts and achievements have demonstrated the important role of mediation in solving international conflicts.``
Not everyone welcomed today`s award. Several politicians from Serbia, which opposed Kosovo`s declaration of independence from the country in February, criticized the move.
The award is ``pitiful,`` said Dragan Sormaz, a deputy of the nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia. ``This is simply incomprehensible,`` he said. The decision has rendered the prize ``meaningless,`` said Dusan Bajatovic, a deputy of the Socialist Party of Serbia. Ahtisaari ``damaged nations in the Balkans.``
Ahtisaari, who is married with a son, is active in several non-governmental and non-profit organizations. In Finland, he serves on the corporate governing board of Elcoteq SE, Europe`s biggest contract manufacturer of electronics.
He brokered the peace process between Indonesia`s government and the Free Aceh Movement in 2005, which led to the signing of a peace agreement, ending three decades of conflict in the Aceh province.
Ahtisaari has been awarded honorary doctorates by 19 universities around the world and received UNESCO`s peace prize earlier this month.
``With this prize, the committee shows it is keen to demonstrate that the Nobel peace prize is a peace prize and that it will continue to be given to people working directly with peace issues and not just to people working with other areas under the so-called wide notion of peace,`` Stein Toennesson, director of the International Peace Research Institute, said in a phone interview from Oslo.
``Too many prizes have gone to people working in related areas: the environment, climate, micro-credit,`` Toennesson said. ``One tended to start to think that perhaps the prize was no longer a peace prize.``
The peace prize, worth 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) was created in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel more than a century ago. Past laureates include Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Mother Theresa and the Red Cross. The prize was first handed out in 1901.
Like Carter, who won in 2002, Ahtisaari is also a former leader who won for finding peaceful solutions to international conflicts, Toennesson said. The Finn has been high up the Nobel committee`s short-list for the past few years, he said.
Ahtisaari won the award in ``recognition of his long career and extensive work to safeguard peace in the world,`` Finland`s Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said in an e-mailed statement today. ``This recognition will also bring credit to Finland.``
`Fair and Tough`
The Nobel prize has often honored the parties of an agreement rather than the mediator, Toennesson said. In this case, the broker of a deal rather than the parties, such as the Indonesian president and the head of the Free Aceh Movement, won, he said.
``Ahtisaari is someone who is fair, tough and solution- oriented,`` Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said through a spokesman today. ``He deserved to get the prize because of his achievements.``
This year, 33 organizations and 164 individuals had been nominated, one of the largest groups in the prize`s history, according to Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. Living laureates, governments and university chancellors, among others, are allowed to propose candidates.
The award is formally handed out at a ceremony in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel`s death in 1896. Nobel also set up prizes for achievements in physics, medicine, chemistry and literature, which were announced earlier this week by the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation.
The recipient of the economics award, established in memory of Nobel by Sweden`s central bank in 1969, will be made public on Oct. 13.