Does a tiny cluster of islands on the border between Sweden and Finland hold the key to conflict resolution? For years people have been flocking to the Åland Islands to study peace. Almost 100 years ago, Sweden and Finland were on the verge of a full-blown conflict over who owned these islands. They were pulled back from the brink by an internationally mediated solution that gave the islanders autonomy and protected their culture. Known today as the “Åland example,” this solution has since inspired a whole range of peace processes, such as those in Israel and Palestine, and the Balkans. In this episode, we explore the Nordic way to peace and ask the fundamental question: How can we achieve a more peaceful world?
“There is usually a way of not describing everything as black and white. The color of peace is grey”
Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark, Åland Islands Peace Institute
This podcast episode features the following speakers
Arzu Abdullayeva (Azerbaijan)
Arzu Abdullayeva chairs the Azerbaijan National Committee of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly, a civil society organization working to promote human rights and peace. Arzu has spent nearly 30 years of her life as a peace activist, working to reconcile Armenia and Azerbaijan in their long-running conflict over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. She has helped pioneer peacebuilding efforts in the Karabakh conflict and her work has been recognized several times, including in 1992, when she and her Armenian colleague, Anahit Bayandour, received the Olof Palme Prize for their efforts to facilitate prisoner-of-war exchanges and promote dialogue during one of the most intense phases of the conflict.
Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark (Finland)
Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark is the director of the Åland Islands Peace Institute. She is an associate professor of Sweden's Uppsala University and holds a PhD in international law. Sia has worked in academia, intergovernmental organizations and civil society, both in the Nordic countries and internationally. Her interests and expertise are in law and politics, focusing on the role of law in achieving sustainable peace, human rights, identity and pluralism, minorities, and territorial power-sharing. Unexpected encounters are what inspire her most.
Elçin Aktoprak (Turkey)
Dr Elçin Aktoprak was an assistant professor at Ankara University's Department of International Relations until she, along with hundreds of other academics, was dismissed by a 2017 government decree for signing a peace petition that called for an end to military operations in the country's largely Kurdish south-east. She recently became the coordinator of an EU-funded project called the School of Human Rights, which offers online workshops to Turkish academics and students working on human rights. Her research interests are nationalism, minority issues in Europe, the Kurdish question, conflict resolution, and peace studies.