Ålands fredsinstitut
The Åland Islands Peace Institute

Hamngatan 4
AX-22100 Mariehamn, Åland, Finland
Tel. +358 18 15570
peace@peace.ax
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The Åland Peace Blog

Since the very beginning (in 1992) the Åland Islands Peace Institute has
worked with questions of security, minorities and autonomy. The purpose is
to prevent and manage conflicts, always with a gender awareness. Throughout
the years we have gathered knowledge and strengthened expertise within these
areas, and a new phase was initiated in 2007 with the development of the
Peace Institute's research and investigation capacity. The Peace Institute
arranges seminars, conferences and courses within these areas and regularly
publishes reports and books. We believe that some of the knowledge and
the insights that we acquire should be disseminated to a wider public in a
shorter and quicker form. This is why we are creating the blog. It is
knowledge-oriented and analyzes or comments briefly - but quickly -
news, events and phenomena with the purpose of providing deeper
understanding. The staff and the board of the Peace Institute will
contribute to the blog.

Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark
Director of the Peace Institute, Associate Professor in International Law



In Baku I was living for many years, quite many experiences and memories I have from my hometown, and it is the first time that I am for such a long period, more than nine

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Gulnar Mammadova is a volunteer from Azerbaijan at the ÅIPI.She is involved in the internationalcooperation projects with focus ongender equality, empowerment ofyoung women, and youth exchangesfrom conflict regions. Her currentresearch interests in ÅIPI include Åland Islands’ experience ofconflict resolution and autonomy. 

months, away from home. Because of the excessive heat of the sun in this time of the year the inhabitants of Baku probably   are finding shelter, as usual, on the beaches of the Caspian Sea where one can cool down and enjoy the   warm sand. Maybe    it is wavy in the Caspian today due to the strong winds characteristic for Baku. Yet, I am sure that the beaches still are occupied by many guests because there are always people who enjoy jumping over the big waves like me. And probably watermelons, the favorite fruit at this time of the year are stored directly in the water of the Caspian to cool. And so I continue picturing my home town while being far away this summer. Mariehamn is the first foreign city  that I have been living in for     such  long time, new experiences and new memories I gained in these peaceful islands.       I have by now experienced the   beauties of   all four seasons of the year here on the Åland Islands and observed the change of colures and hues of the    nature of the islands.

And now, the mix of blue-white and green-white tricots is yielding yet new colures and new experiences! In the framework of UEFA European League a football match between Inter-Baku and IFK-Mariehamn are bringing my two beloved cities together. Even if I am not a big football fan this has come as very exciting and happy news to me. Considering the long history and multifaceted cooperation between Baku and Mariehamn, the football game can further awareness and interaction and it can     be a good input in the relationship of two cities and societies for the future.

The Åland Islands Peace Institute (ÅIPI) hosts and send volunteers within the European Voluntary Service and has for the past four years continuously hosted volunteers from Azerbaijan. I am the Institute’s fourth volunteer from Azerbaijan and the ÅIPI, with its nice team already has become very dear to my heart.

As only few might know, contacts between the Åland Islands and Azerbaijan have existed for many years. The interest   of Azerbaijanis in the Åland Example goes back to the 90’s when the first delegation from Azerbaijan arrived to Mariehamn to discuss the Åland Example and its relevance to the resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan about the region of Nagorny Karabakh. Since 1993 more than 10 visits have been paid to the Åland Islands within the frame of different events involving students, journalist, and parliamentarians from Azerbaijan with aim to get acquainted and discuss the functioning of self-governance on the Åland Islands. It was in December of 1993 the parliamentarians from Azerbaijan met with their   Armenian counterparts in peace talks on the Åland Islands, one of the organizers of which was the ÅIPI. In 1994 Mariehamn hosted one of the peace negotiation meetings of the OSCE Minsk group, the main mediator in the conflict.

The ÅIPI has functioned on several occasions as a facilitator for intercultural dialogue and conflict resolution between Azerbaijani and Armenian representatives, including politicians, journalists, civil society activities and youth. The ÅIPI moreover currently supports a local organization to empower women in Azerbaijan.

The Åland Islands’ experience with the peaceful solution of conflict has been a reference point in the discussions about the Nagorny Karabakh conflict for Azerbaijanis and Armenians when visiting the Åland Islands within the projects “Voices for Peace” in 2012 and “Living Bridges” in 2009.

The project “Living bridges” involved young women from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Finland and Sweden on the Åland Islands in August of 2009 and aimed at promoting  gender?equality, the empowerment of women, active citizenship of women and an active role of women in decision making processes, in conflict resolution and intercultural dialogue.

The project “Voices for Peace” in 2012 gathered musicians, journalists and university students from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Sweden and Finland in Mariehamn. Music has the power to unite people without regarding territorial, political, social and ideological boundaries and it can be a tool for the promotion of peace and intercultural dialogue.  In fact, the Peace Concert took place at the market square in Mariehamn in August 2012 and raised the interest of the Ålanders along with people coming from the Baltic Sea countries.

The ÅIPI is currently cooperating with the Azerbaijani women’s organization Yuva within the project “Open Doors” for promoting gender equality perspectives in youth work. In the framework of the project a girl center was created in a more disadvantaged neighborhood of Baku to offer after-school activities with a feminist perspective for girls.

Such projects are serving the development and deepening of social and professional ties between the Åland Islands and Azerbaijan in particular and between Nordic countries and Southern Caucasus in general. While the contribution of the above mentioned projects to the development of Azerbaijani civil society is huge, the exchange of experience is of a mutual benefit as knowledge about Azerbaijan has been presented to the public on Åland. The ÅIPI’s ties to the South Caucasus present opportunities for youth from Åland and other Nordic regions to study the South Caucasus in more depth and gain expertise on the region while also establishing personal connections to peer students or young civil society representatives.

Returning to the football game between IFK-Mariehamn and Inter-Baku, in my opinion, irrespective of the final score, there are no winners or losers in interaction and cooperation. I am confident and happy that the interchange of contacts and sharing of experience in all fields, including football, will result in long-term ties between two places that are so dear to my heart.

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Bloggen skrivs av Fredsinstitutets nuvarande eller tidigare personal, gästforskare och styrelseledamöter eller av inbjudna gästskribenter. Åsikterna är författarens egna.

The blog pieces are written by the peace institute's present or former staff, guest researchers, board members or invited guest writers. The opinions are the author's own.
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