Negotiations and mediation between the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, Greenpeace and the Finnish forest administration Metsähallitus in 2018-2021
The concerned parties commissioned Akordi in autumn 2018 to assess the prolonged forestry conflicts in the Kainuu region. 46 people were interviewed for the assessment. The interviews revealed that the state owned forests in Kainuu have national significance, yet the NGOs and Metsähallitus had mostly focused on the local level in their earlier discussions. This meant that in order for the conflict to be resolved the national level aspects had to be discussed as well.
The disagreements that Akordi was called upon to resolve centered around the planned revision of the Kainuu landscape ecological plan. This essentially meant that the NGOs and Metsähallitus had differing views on biodiversity assessments and/or management practices in the area.
A twelve member working group was founded from members of the concerned organizations. This included national directors and forest experts of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and Finnish Greenpeace. Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd. was represented by the managing director, director of forest management and director of sustainable development, regional managers of Kainuu and Lapland, the head of ecological design in Kainuu region, and one team supervisor from Kainuu. Akordi constantly had at least two members participating in the group work. The group convened 14 times between November 2019 and January 2021.
The first steps were getting to know each other and building trust, agreeing on the shared rules for the collaboration, and planning workshops. This was followed by defining objectives and a plan for the work process. It became dubbed ‘the Kainuu process’.
This shared forum was successful in opening a dialogue between the parties that had sorely been lacking. It quickly became apparent that all parties were far more capable and willing to collaborate and solve the common issues than the participants themselves had thought. Also, another Metsähallitus regional manager from Southern Finland joined the working group on 17.3.2020.
The scope of the work expanded significantly from what was initially planned. The reason for this was that the NGO comments on harvesting plans for various sites had to be reviewed for new areas in addition to Kainuu: Lapland and Southern Finland. The harvesting plans were reviewed together to avoid conflicts down the line. The working group reviewed over a thousand sites during over thirty meetings. The working group also began reviewing together the criteria that Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd. uses in its biodiversity assessments.
The greatest achievement of the working group has been the opening of the regular dialogue between the NGOs and key members of Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd. One participant gave the following inspiring comment regarding the process:
“I learned so much more about why collaboration in the past just hasn’t worked. It has also been a pleasure to see that promises have been kept. I’ve learned a lot about listening to the other side better and I take their views more into consideration in our work, and I also have more appreciation for the expertise the others have.”
This signifies that what was lacking earlier, was more than just the dialogue. The trust that it would even be possible to collaborate in a productive manner under such challenging circumstances was also absent. The working group managed to build a flexible process that enabled the participants to include new items into the planning iteratively, if they saw the need
‘The Kainuu process’ has been the only venue for the parties to discuss these matters. It grew into a national discussion forum between environmental NGOs and Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd. This work on a national level has continued into the building of a shared knowledge base, but some complex issues still require solving.
The follow-up meetings regarding the mediation were scheduled for January 2022 and January 2023.
During the process, around 250 Metsähallitus employees received training about principles of collaboration and collaboration skills. The participants found the training very useful. Also, some forest experts from the NGOs participated in the ‘Learn to lead collaboration’ training.