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Words of tribute by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo at the memorial ceremony for former president Martti Ahtisaari on 10 November 2023

Government Communications Department
Publication date 10.11.2023 17.42
Speech

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo delivered words of tribute at the memorial ceremony for former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari at the Government Banquet Hall on 10 November 2023.

Honoured Mrs Eeva Ahtisaari, dear Marko Ahtisaari,
Dear President of the Republic and Dr Haukio,
Dear mourners,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends and family, dear guests,

Former president Martti Ahtisaari left a permanent mark on the world. We are here today to remember perhaps the most international Finnish leader who ever lived. His decades-long work to resolve conflicts touched the lives of countless people on multiple continents.

He was a diplomat, a president and a builder of peace. He worked in the field, in Africa, Asia and the Balkans – the scope of his work was truly global. No Finn has had a greater influence on the development of the United Nations.

Freedom is one of man’s most precious possessions. President Ahtisaari believed that freedom must be distributed fairly among all people.

Ahtisaari’s personality undoubtedly played a role in the success of his work. He was guided by his conviction that all people should be treated with decency.

From a young age, Martti Ahtisaari showed diligence and a strong desire to try again and again. He was determined – even to the point of stubbornness – to follow his own path. When awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Martti Ahtisaari in 2008, the prize committee had the following to say: "Through his untiring efforts and good results, he has shown what role mediation of various kinds can play in the resolution of international conflicts."

Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari was Finland’s tenth president and the first to be elected by direct popular vote in 1994. It was a difficult time; Finland was emerging from a deep recession and suffering from mass unemployment. As president, he was concerned about the Finns left behind in the economic upturn.

Former president Ahtisaari was a strong supporter of Finland's accession to the European Union. For many of us, he was a new kind of leader in an era of change.

He also supported Finland’s membership in NATO: not so much because of the threat from Russia, but because he believed that Finland, as a Western democracy, should belong to all the organisations where Western countries are members.

As president, he worked actively to open up important connections for Finland's foreign trade. On his trips throughout Finland, he fulfilled his promise to stay in close dialogue with ordinary Finns.

I met President Ahtisaari for the first time when I was Secretary-General of the Union of Finnish University Students. I was impressed by the way he received us students. He listened with genuine interest and encouraged us to be curious about the world.

After his term as president, Ahtisaari continued his work in international mediation. The Crisis Management Initiative CMI, which he founded, is a global leader in its field.

Former president Martti Ahtisaari is no longer with us. But his legacy, important work on behalf of peace, lives on.