Martti Ahtisaari joined The Elders in 2009, bringing three decades’ experience in international diplomacy and conflict mediation.
President Ahtisaari visited the Korean Peninsula with his fellow Elders Gro Brundtland, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson in April 2011. In response to high levels of tension and mistrust between North and South Korea, he stressed that progress could only be achieved by the resumption of meaningful dialogue between the parties.
At the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2011, Martti Ahtisaari together with Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, Lakhdar Brahimi and Gro Harlem Brundtland launched The Elders’ initiative on child marriage and the Girls not Brides campaign.
In July 2012, he travelled to South Sudan as part of a two-stage Elders delegation to the region to encourage dialogue between Sudan and South Sudan. As well as meeting political and religious leaders, the Elders spent time at a refugee camp near the border and called on the international community to step up humanitarian assistance to those displaced by recent fighting.
Martti Ahtisaari’s deep engagement in conflict mediation led him to join an Elders’ delegation to Israel, the West Bank and Egypt in October 2012 during which they encouraged the implementation of the two-state solution. In July 2013 he travelled to Washington D.C with Jimmy Carter, Ernesto Zedillo, Mary Robinson and Lakhdar Brahimi to meet relevant US political leaders to further discuss the situation in the Middle East.
Martti Ahtisaari has been continually engaged with The Elders’ initiative in Myanmar. During the September 2013 visit, the delegation met with leaders and civil society representatives involved in supporting the peace process with ethnic minority armed groups and addressing ongoing violence in Rakhine state. In March 2014, Martti Ahtisaari and Gro Harlem Brundtland visited Mae La refugee camp and Mae Tao Clinic, on the Thailand-Myanmar border where they saw the resilience of those living in exile. In December 2014, President Ahtisaari and other Elders met with representatives from the government, the military and civil society including ethnic women’s groups.
In January 2014, he travelled to Iran with Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu and Ernesto Zedillo where they met with various leaders including President Hassan Rouhani. The Elders discussed easing of regional tensions, the spread of extremist violence internationally, the issue of human rights and the Syrian crisis, as well as supporting progress being made in the international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme.
In September 2014 he also participated in the UN General Assembly in New York with Gro Harlem Brundtland, Graca Machel and Mary Robinson as a strong advocator for climate change and sustainable development.
Martti Ahtisaari joined The Elders’ delegation to Moscow in April 2015. Led by Kofi Annan, President Ahtisaari along with Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter and Ernesto Zedillo visited Russia to discuss key geopolitical issues. During the trip, The Elders met with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
In September 2016 Martti Ahtisaari together with Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi launched a new report on refugee and migration following their visit to Berlin. They heard a range of perspectives on the country's response to the crisis: from Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal President Joachim Gauck and business leaders, to civil society groups, volunteers and refugees themselves.
At the 2016 UN General Assembly in New York, Martti Ahtisaari along with Gro Harlem Brundtland, Hina Jilani and Mary Robinson articulated The Elders’ positions on strengthening the UN, and called for greater momentum to solve the current refugee crisis.