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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

CMI Chairman Wins Nobel Prize

Former Finnish Head of State Martti Ahtisaari last month was awarded the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize for his important efforts to resolve international conflicts, a prolific resume that this summer included facilitating Iraqi peace talks known as the Helsinki II with University of Massachusetts distinguished professor Padraig O’Malley.

Ahtisaari’s efforts on the Helsinki II were recognized in the Norwegian Nobel Committee press release October 10 announcing his award for a lifetime achievement in contributing to a more peaceful world.

“In 2008, through the CMI and in cooperation with other institutions, Ahtisaari has tried to help find a peaceful conclusion to the problems in Iraq,” the press statement read.

After roles negotiating peace in Northern Ireland and South Africa, Dublin-born O’Malley was the chief architect of two secret meeting in Helsinki, Finland, that brought together top Iraqi Sunni and Shiite parliamentarians to negotiate 17 principles of contention and 15 implementation mechanisms for Iraq-the Helsinki II Agreement-signed in Baghdad’s green zone July 5.

The meetings were largely made possible by Ahtisaari and the Crisis Management Initiative, (CMI)-a non-profit organization dedicated to conflict resolution founded by Ahtisaari after serving the Finnish Presidency from 1994-2000.

“Ahtisaari’s role [was] an informal senior advisor; he helped them [O’Malley and Robert Bendetson-a major financier of the talks] establish a relationship with Finland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and helped provide a confidential setting for the discussions,” said CMI Director Kristiina Rintakoski over the phone from the CMI headquarters in Helsinki. “It’s really O’Malley that is the father of the process-and although we were facilitators and discussed what the organization wanted-it’s [Helsinki II] to his credit and all those involved in the process.”

O’Malley-the John Joseph Moakley Chair of Peace and Reconciliation at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston-is currently overseas negotiating a conflict-resolution exchange program aimed at youth living in fragmented societies, and could not be reached for comment.

Echoing Rintakoski’s sentiment, Ahtisaari praised the multidimensional efforts of conflict resolution in his humble acceptance speech the day he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Peace can never be achieved by one single person,” Ahtisaari said. “It is part of the media culture that the mediator gets an unreasonable share of attention during the mediation process. Therefore it is important to emphasize the role of others, members of the mediation teams and the most important actors outside the direct negotiation process itself.”

Ahtisaari was awarded the Peace Prize partly for his conflict resolution efforts in Namibia, Kosovo, Indonesia, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Central Asia, and on the Horn of Africa. He also received the 2008 Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award at the Institute for Global Leadership of Tufts University September 22.

Ahtisaari concluded his speech with a moral obligation.

“I am seriously concerned about the large number of conflicts that the international community has not solved,” Ahtisaari said. “We should never accept that some conflicts remain frozen forever. All conflicts can be solved. Each conflict is to be seen as a vital challenge requiring immediate attention from the international community.”