Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president and United Nations envoy, is not a household name. But his globetrotting has been behind well-known peace deals that helped to end many long-standing bloody conflicts across continents. In awarding this year's Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian panel has appropriately chosen a towering figure in today's conflict-resolution diplomacy. Too often, the secretive panel's choices have been seen as politically driven. Its decisions, more often than not, attract controversy. For example, previous winners have included the late Palestinian Liberation Organisation chairman Yasser Arafat, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, the late Vietnamese communist general Le Duc Tho, Northern Ireland Protestant leader David Trimble and the Dalai Lama. By comparison, Mr Ahtisaari is an uncontroversial choice. From Northern Ireland to Iraq, and the Horn of Africa to Aceh, his tireless work for peace over two decades is testimony to his energy and dedication. His first success was in securing independence for Namibia in 1990. Five years later, he brokered a settlement that ended the three-decade conflict between Indonesia and separatist rebels in Aceh. Hasan di Tiro, a founder of Aceh's separatist movement, would not have been able to return yesterday for a two-week visit after 30 years of exile without Mr Ahtisaari's work. The Finnish diplomat also took part in mediation that ended Nato's air campaign in Kosovo in 1999 and his blueprint formed the basis of Kosovo's independence early this year. This is not to say his award was universally greeted with enthusiasm. Serbia fought a war over Kosovo and today opposes its independence. It has called the award politically motivated. And Aceh's former rebels never liked Mr Ahtisaari, whose negotiations led to the province's autonomy, not independence, a move he would have opposed. Nevertheless, the decision marks a return to recognising contributions in resolving conflicts in a world sadly full of such hostilities.