A tribute to President Martti Ahtisaari

President Martti Ahtisaari

We have received with great sadness the news that Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, passed away on 16 October 2023 at the age of 86. President Ahtisaari was instrumental in the founding of UNU-WIDER in Helsinki 1985 and a lifelong supporter of the Institute’s mission. When asked about why such an organization was needed in Finland he said ‘The fundamental argument at the time was that there was a need for a sustained and international effort to produce high-level research and in-depth understanding on how the global economic system works, and how that affects the demanding needs of developing countries,' President Ahtisaari noted in his Annual Lecture, reflecting on his support for hosting the first research center of the United Nations University.

President Ahtisaari at WIDER Development conference, 1986 President Ahtisaari at UNU-WIDER book launch, 1995

President Ahtisaari founded CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation and was known for his international peace work after his term in office to support achieving peace in conflicts around the world. Basic human rights and egalitarianism as a basis for progress in society were deeply held values of President Ahtisaari. As such it is not surprising that his topic for the 2013 WIDER Annual Lecture 17 was an exploration of egalitarianism as a foundation for lasting peace.

President Martti Ahtisaari at WIDER Annual Lecture in 2013 President Martti Ahtisaari delivering Annual Lecture 17, in 2013

The Institute’s founding academic, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, spoke beautifully of President Ahtisaari’s role in his introduction to WIDER Annual Lecture 17 'I am privileged to know Martti Ahtisaari and have him as a friend. His influence in building WIDER, right from its early days, has been extraordinarily important, inspiring and deeply influential. President Ahtisaari's role in the world is widely known and deeply admired, and in a small way it applied to WIDER as well, as we try to take a wider, and a more inclusive approach to research and view of the world’

His imprint on the world is important and hopefully lasting, and at UNU-WIDER we will continue our work towards fulfilling our mission to provide economic analysis and policy advice with the aim of promoting sustainable and equitable development for all as he wished the Institute to do.