Assessing Conflicts surrounding Merenkurkku Nature Conservation

The Merenkurkku or Kvarken Archipelago sits between the Finnish and Swedish mainlands, separating the Bothnian Bay from the Bothnian Sea. The string of islands houses a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the area has been continuously plagued by a history of conflict between local  Swedish-speaking communities and environmental administration officials.

To address the pressing need for a coherent picture of perspectives towards environmental issues in the Merenkurkku Archipelago, senior mediator Juha-Pekka Turunen and Camilla Strandberg-Panelius have been working on a project commissioned by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment gathering the diverse histories and perspective to the conflict situation.

The conflict assessment was carried out during the summer and autumn, 2023, encompassing forty interviews and a joint workshop discussion with a wide range of participants. The assessment results demonstrate deep dissatisfaction with the way the environmental administration has operated in the past, and trust is low. However, the assessment also revealed a willingness to joint problem-solving and that parties were open to the possibilities of collaboration.

You can find the results of the assessment in Finnish and Swedish here.

The Team behind the Merenkurkku Conflict Assessment

For this work, Akordi needed a native Swedish-speaker to pair up with senior mediator Juha-Pekka Turunen, Camilla Strandberg. Together, Camilla and Juha-Pekka had the nuance and expertise needed to complete the demanding work.

Camilla has been working with Akordi since August, 2023. An entrepreneur with a background in environmental sciences, she has always worked best in an independent environment. She is motivated in equal parts by a drive to help address the crises that plague our modern society and a desire to understand the ways in which human behavior is interlinked with environmental destruction. She talks about watching the picture unfold in facilitation; “Even if the project doesn’t reach its original objective, it’s a joy to see people working together. The processes they start together can lead to unforeseen positive outcomes.”

Juha-Pekka has 25 years in participatory processes under his belt, and has worked at Akordi since 2019. With a formidable range of experience across a cornucopia of subject arenas, Juha-Pekka takes a calm, methodical approach to facilitation. He emphasizes the importance of listening to all parties with the same intensity, acknowledging that he doesn’t see his job as solving the problems for the people he helps. “It’s my job to get people to a place where they can solve their problems themselves.”