Real house keys were brought under the eyes of 7,000 business leaders: “The human cost of war”

House keys are our most valuable asset – and yet the first thing that a person running away from a conflict no longer needs. CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation assembled authentic house keys around the world for a groundbreaking exhibition witnessed by more than 7,000 business leaders, in the Nordic Business Forum, on the International day of Peace, 21 October.

“As we all know, house keys have a huge meaning. They represent safety, independence and new beginnings. In many ways, house keys are our most valuable possessions. They always go with us – and yet the keys are the first thing that a person fleeing war no longer needs”, says Janne Taalas, CEO of CMI, one of the leading peace mediation organisations in the world.

The Keys for Peace exhibition presents keys and their owners from conflict areas around the world: Ukraine, Mali, Bosnia, Burundi, Afghanistan, Palestine, Libya and ceded Karelia in Finland. They are people from different backgrounds, from a serial entrepreneur to a radio host and a political dialogue promoter. What they have in common is the fact that their homes changed from being the safest places on earth to the most unsafe ones. 

While the stories and background differ, they all involve the same nemesis of people being forced to leave their homes. The exhibition follows the twists and turns of the escape journey, the destinies of relatives and yet the glimpses of light amidst conflict and brutality. We also hear the thoughts and reflections on how those affected think the conflicts could be solved – of how to find the keys to peace.

One of the stories in the exhibition is that of a boy, Martti Ahtisaari, who would later become the President of Finland and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Ahtisaari was evacuated from his home in Karelia when he was only two years old, following the Soviet invasion of the Second World War. His key never made it back home.

More requests for peace mediation than can be answered 

These uncertain times are reflected in ever more requests for peace mediation. Each year CMI receives more requests for peace mediation than it can fulfill. In 2021 it received 99 mediation requests – the highest annual number since its foundation in 2000.

“Right now, there are already more than 100 million* of these stories, of people who had to leave their homes. CMI is one of the world’s leading conflict mediators and for us peace is always an option and all conflicts are solvable. What humanity has started, humanity can stop, we all hold the keys for peace” says Taalas.