When an autonomy has come of age it becomes – from a comparative perspective – an arrangement that raises new questions compared to when the autonomy was ”young”, or recently founded. How can it be so? Isn’t an autonomy an active, continuously developing legal and political construct that is managing an originally historic conflict which otherwise would erupt again?
The Åland Islands are now celebrating 100 years of autonomy, making it the oldest autonomy still in active operation. The jubilee is an excellent opportunity to reflect upon comparative aspects of Åland´s autonomy through research and seminars. When the ledger of experiences and reflections shall make a final reconciliation on the last page of the autonomy’s first century, we have both historic and contemporary analyses available.
Returning to the initial question above, a dimension to which lasting conflict resolution mechanisms are exposed is the sustainability aspect. What is it that makes a solution last, and – even more interesting – is it the original conflict that continues to be managed by the mechanism after say 50 years, or 100?
The hidden hypothesis behind the question is of course the statement that forces other than fear of a non-peaceful repetition have taken over as a fundament for the autonomy; call them institutionalisation, contextual changes, reframed inter-group relations, or an internationalisation of political and social relations.
If there is some support for a hypothesis along these lines, the ironic situation emerges that the longer an autonomy stays, and – if so – the more its sustainability rests on post-settlement conditions other than the original ones, the less useful the autonomy becomes as a case for comparison with new and freshly framed autonomy arrangements, be they special arrangements or components in major constitutional projects.
On the other hand, the quality of an autonomy that survives and reframes its original problems may actually serve as an example of other and more general political insights. One such insight could be that the more the subsidiarity principle is employed, and the closer democracy is to its constituents, the more we are likely to see a peaceful and trusting local community based on its own character and identity. Maybe autonomies in a changing global environment are sustained because of their flexibility and adaptability, rather than through clinging to tensions that once existed but have been overtaken by other priorities?
In this issue of the Journal of Autonomy and Security Studies you will encounter comparative perspectives that have horizons of different distances. Under the surface is always the constant question of to what extent old tensions are alive, and exploitable, or if a new reality has taken over the priorities of the people – and if so, hopefully also their leaders. The question is always present: which problem is in any moment regulated by an autonomy? Who formulates that, and does it bring focus towards history or towards the future?
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Kjell-Åke Nordquist
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.