16 May 2008The former Finnish president and current United Nations envoy Martti Ahtisaari was named today as the winner of the annual peace prize of the Organization’s cultural agency. The former Finnish president and current United Nations envoy Martti Ahtisaari was named today as the winner of the annual peace prize of the Organization’s cultural agency. Mr. Ahtisaari, who also founded the non-governmental organization (NGO) Crisis Management Initiative, was chosen for “his lifetime contribution to world peace,” said the head of the international jury that awards the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Expressing his great pleasure at this recognition, the agency’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said that Mr. Ahtisaari’s career in promoting dialogue and world peace mirrors UNESCO’s ideals. This year’s winner, who served as the President of Finland from 1994 to 2000, has carried out many peace missions for the UN in such places as Jenin and the Horn of Africa and has previously served as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo. In the framework of the Crisis Management Initiative, he organized a week-long meeting between Iraq Muslim Sunni and Shiite groups to kick-start dialogue between the communities. Additionally, he facilitated the peace process between Indonesia and Aceh separatists, which led to the signing of a peace treaty, bringing an end to the province’s conflict. The Prize was established in 1989 by UNESCO’s General Conference to honour living people or institutions which have contributed significantly to the promotion, research or safeguarding of peace while complying with the Charter of the United Nations and UNESCO’s constitution. It was named for the first president of Côte d’Ivoire, the late Mr. Houphouët-Boigny. Previous winners include South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Frederik W. De Klerk; Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat; King Juan Carlos of Spain and former United States President Jimmy Carter; and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.