“The Åland Example in Use 1990-2019: Where, When, How, Why and by Whom?”
In a project, funded by the Åland Cultural Foundation and the Åland Parliament Jubilee Fund, 25 conflicts in which the Åland Example has been used have been studied and eight of them have been analysed in more depth.
The results have been published in Report no 1-2020 in the report series of the Åland Islands Peace Institute, which discusses the questions of where, when, how, why, and by whom the Åland Example has been used in conflict resolution efforts around the world as well as what has been of interest. The research was conducted by Susann Simolin, head of information and researcher at the Åland Islands Peace Institute, as well as doctoral student at Åbo Akademi University, Vasa. The report can be downloaded in pdf.
It was found that the Åland Example has been used in more conflicts, by more actors, and in more ways than what had previously been documented, both in formal and informal contexts. Vague reports of the Åland Example having been used in Kashmir and Cyprus have now been confirmed and documented, while in cases such as Bougainville, Corsica, Crimea, Gagauzia, Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands, Kosovo, Mindanao, Tamil Eelam (Sri Lanka), Tibet, Transdniestria, Vojvodina, Western Sahara, and Zanzibar, documentation has been collected from various sources, and compiled to provide more comprehensive accounts than were previously available.
Many different types of actors have initiated and been involved in the processes. Diplomats from Finland or other Nordic countries have often been involved, but in several cases, documentation was found concerning experts from outside the Nordic region. Actors from the conflict region themselves have also initiated discussions on the Åland case in various processes and independently from actors in the Nordic region. The in-depth analysis of eight cases (Corsica, Gagauzia, Cyprus, Kashmir, Mindanao, Northern Ireland, Tamil Eelam, and Transdniestria) confirmed the conclusions from previous research that there has been an interest in all three of the main components of the Åland Example, i.e., autonomy, cultural protection, and demilitarisation.
This study also confirms that the idea of the usage of the Åland example is closely linked to the idea of using autonomy as a tool for conflict resolution, and indeed, the autonomy system is also what has attracted the most interest. It was found that the usage of the Åland Example has seven different functions in conflict resolution. It has worked as 1) an incitement to start a peace process or a stimulus for a stalled process, 2) as an argument to promote the cause of conflict actors, 3) as a conflict map – a list of problems and their potential solutions, 4) as content provider – models for how systems and institutions can be designed and work in practice, 5) a safe and neutral meeting place 6) to illustrate norms, values, and, principles that are considered crucial for successful conflict resolution, and finally, 7) as a tool for conflict transformation at a conflict or an individual level. What would be considered a concrete “impact” on conflict resolution processes and indications of Åland having been used as a ‘model’ for concrete institutions, treaties, or legislative solutions were found in the cases Bougainville, Krajina, Hong Kong, Transdniestria, and possibly in Gagauzia. In addition, Åland may have helped transform conflicts in the cases of Aceh, Bougainville, and Northern Ireland. Furthermore, Åland is said to have potentially contributed to steps in the conflict resolution processes of Nagorno-Karabakh and Corsica.
The findings in this study support the conclusion that ‘model’ is not an appropriate word to capture all the functions of Åland in conflict resolution processes. Åland is, at times, used as a model, illustrating the specific design of a certain system or certain institutions, however, the term ‘model’ cannot include a significant number of other functions Åland has had in conflict resolution. Thus, the conclusion is that Åland is in fact used both as a model and as an example, a term which can refer to general principles or loose templates, and furthermore that the concept of ‘the Åland Example’ can be used to cover them both.
The Åland Islands Peace Institute has been working continuously with the components of the Åland Example and their relevance in conflicts. The results from an earlier project on the components of the Åland Example is available as a book, read more about it here.