Ahtisaari Recognized as International Peacemaker

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 13, 2000) - The Fulbright Association announced today that the 2000 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding will be awarded to Martti Oiva Kalvei Ahtisaari, former president of Finland. President Ahtisaari will be honored in a ceremony at the International Trade Center on December 1.

A diplomat for more than 30 years and president of Finland from 1994 to 2000, Martti Ahtisaari has served as peacemaker in some of the world's most troubled areas. His commitments to strengthening civil society, extending democratic practices, and furthering peaceful cooperation and coexistence have repeatedly led foreign governments to seek his aid in resolving difficult and violent conflicts.

Lee H. Hamilton, chairman of the international selection committee for the 2000 J. William Fulbright Prize, said, "Martti Ahtisaari's tremendous contributions to international peace and understanding span many decades and several regions of the world. He has played a central role in bringing independence and peace to Namibia, helping to resolve the wars in Bosnia and
Kosovo, and, most recently, mediating the difficult conflict in Northern Ireland."

"Mr. Ahtisaari's career reflects a long-standing and deeply held commitment to international reconciliation and understanding," added Mr. Hamilton, who is director of The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a former chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations. "Mr. Ahtisaari's extraordinary work and steady leadership are to be commended. His many achievements - at the United Nations, as president of Finland, and as citizen of the world - explain the great esteem he enjoys in the international community."

The J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding carries a $50,000 award provided by The Coca-Cola Foundation. The Fulbright Association created the Fulbright Prize in 1993 with a grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation to recognize individuals who have made extraordinary contributions toward bringing peoples, cultures or nations to greater
understanding of others. Previous recipients of the award are former South African President Nelson Mandela, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Austrian Federal Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, former Philippine President Corazon C. Aquino, Czech Republic President V?clav Havel, former Chilean President Patricio Aylwin Az?car, and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.

Frederick G. Acker, president of the Fulbright Association's Board of Directors, said, "President Ahtisaari is one of the great peacemakers of  the 20th century. He has spent much of his distinguished career brokering solutions to seemingly hopeless conflicts in Namibia, Kosovo and Northern Ireland. Namibians so appreciated his efforts over 13 years in achieving their peaceful independence that they granted him honorary citizenship."

As Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Namibia, President Ahtisaari led the UN's Transition Assistance Group in Namibia (1989-1990). He helped to supervise Namibia's move toward independence from South Africa and played a key role in ensuring a smooth transition through free and fair elections. Beginning in the early 1990s, President Ahtisaari became involved in the former Yugoslavia, heading the effort to draft a plan to divide Bosnia into a series of autonomous provinces and allow for the return of refugees. The experience prepared him for his next Balkan challenge, when in 1999 he was asked to serve as mediator in the Kosovo conflict, working with former Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott to negotiate with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and bring an end to NATO military intervention.

During his tenure as president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari oversaw his country's entry into the European Union and continued his peacemaking efforts. His diplomatic skills were called upon once again in May 2000, when the British government appointed him to the team overseeing the inspections of IRA weapons dumps in Northern Ireland.

Serving on the international committee convened by the Fulbright Association to select the 2000 laureate were Dr. R. Fenton-May, Director of Operations Development, The Coca-Cola Company; Mr. Herman Liebaers, former Head of the Royal Library, Belgium; Ms. Leticia Ma Tay, Rector, Universidad Tecnologica Centroamericana, Honduras; Dr. Hassan Mekouar, Professor, Mohammed V University, Morocco, and former president of the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (the Fulbright Commission); and Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, president, Tel Aviv University, Israel, and former Israeli ambassador to the United States. Mr. Hamilton served as the committee's chairman.

The Fulbright Association is a private, non-profit organization that supports and promotes the Fulbright Program, an international educational and cultural exchange initiative created in 1946 by legislation sponsored by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. There are now over 200,000 Fulbright alumni throughout the world.