Two foreign affairs veterans, including the former president of Finland, offered some practical advice on conflict resolution during a joint speech yesterday at the Mortara Center for International Studies.

Former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari shared several lessons that he learned throughout his career as an ambassador, UN diplomat and head of state.

“It’s a lonely job to mediate peace,” Ahtisaari said. “A peace agreement is not the end – it’s a beginning.”

The first of his lessons, he said, was the necessity of clarity and simplicity in forging agreements. “It’s much easier to talk if you have facts,” he said. “Peace agreements have to be very simple.”

Ahtisaari also stressed the importance of including all groups and avoiding discrimination in peace talks. He spoke of incorporating women – a group that he noted is often left out. “Lesson number two is that you have to involve all groups,” he said. “In the end, you can’t avoid dealing with groups who you don’t particularly like.”

Additional important lessons Ahtisaari addressed included carefully choosing the timing of resolution attempts, planning for a long-term course while creating resolutions and stabilizing conditions before pursuing later investments in infrastructure after completing resolutions.

Scott Weber (COL ’97), director-general of the International Peacebuilding Alliance, said in his portion of the event that his organization seeks to promote dialogue in conflict-torn countries, a task that he said can sometimes be arduous.

“Conflicts set countries back decades in development,” Weber said. “There’s more work than can be done in this field.”

Weber stressed the importance of viewing results relatively. “In baseball, if you bat 30 percent, you’re an all-star, but in basketball if you miss 30 percent of free-throws, that’s terrible,” he said. “It depends what scale you use, and in our field, I think you need to lower the scale.”

Weber emphasized the importance of being humble in enabling others to build peace, pointing to Ahtisaari as a model. “It’s all about humility in the end,” he said. “Martti is one of the most influential people in international affairs today and also one of the most humble.”

Weber said that peaceful conflict resolution has undergone progress in recent years, citing the UN’s dispatching of over 17,000 peacekeeping troops to Congo this summer, the largest number of blue helmets sent to a country yet.

Weber concluded the event with a plea to the audience members: “Get involved, please,” he said.

The event was sponsored by the Mortara Center and Georgetown’s Master’s program in conflict resolution.

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