By Vasu Gounden
Conversations with Ahtisaari is a small tribute to a great mediator, Martti Ahtisaari, and his steadfast commitment to peace throughout the world. From Namibia to Kosovo, the 2008 Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of Finland has played an indispensible role in nurturing peaceful resolutions to many of our era’s most complex crises.
Mediation remains among the most powerful and effective tools for resolving conflict. Fostering environments for dialogue and cooperation between disputing parties is paramount to reaching negotiated and peaceful settlements. The recently published United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation highlights the need for more structured approaches to mediation that not only provide substantive foundations for mediators, but also ensure more inclusive and open negotiations between all disputants.
This booklet is based on discussions held in Helsinki, Finland in June 2012, and the ongoing partnership between the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) and the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI). President Ahtisaari's personal reflections on mediation are captured and complemented with relevant theoretical knowledge and anecdotal evidence from across the world. What emerges is a succinct collection of lessons aimed at providing support to all those engaged in mediation processes throughout the world. The fact that many of these lessons are reflected within the United Nations Guidance bears testimony to Martti Ahtisaari's wisdom and experience.
It has been an honour to listen and learn from someone who has distinguished himself as an honest broker, committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes. I would also like to acknowledge the assistance of Levent Bilman, Director of the Policy and Mediation Division at the United Nations Department of Political Affairs for his reflections and suggestions, Daniel Forti for gathering background research for this publication, Professor Jannie Malan for his thoughtful editorial comments, and Immins Naudé for his creative design and layout.
Founder and Executive Director, ACCORD.