Vol. 6 No. 1 (2022): Conference proceedings from the Åland Parliament seminar on 20 October 2021: ‘Demilitarisation and neutralisation – a stabilising force for peace in the region'
The question of neutralisation and, even more so, demilitarisation, is a living theme in international politics – from demilitarised and very temporary humanitarian corridors to permanent arrangements for a long-term settlement of inter-state relations, as in the case of the Åland Islands.
From time to time, demilitarisation is considered of no use or relevance – as in the case of the demilitarised zone between Norway and Sweden, revoked in 1993. In other instances, it becomes an important dimension of a regional security puzzle. At the time of writing this is certainly so with respect to the Åland Islands.
In order to make demilitarisation effective it needs to be not only remembered but also understood and kept under active monitoring. The 1921 Åland Convention is a case in point, which illustrates both historic and current dimensions of the relevance of demilitarisation from a legal, political, and social perspective.
For these reasons, the Journal of Autonomy and Security Studies chooses to dedicate its current issue to the Åland Parliament seminar on 20 October 2021, titled ‘Demilitarisation and neutralisation – a stabilising force for peace in the region’. The date is historic as it marks the passing of 100 years since the Åland Convention on the demilitarisation and neutralisation was signed. At the seminar, 30 ambassadors to Finland from countries all over the world, some of them signatories to the Convention, had a chance to acquaint themselves with demilitarisation and neutralisation as a living regime, confirmed in international law through several treaties since the end of the Crimean War in 1856.
This special issue of JASS presents a series of speeches focusing on demilitarisation and includes contributions from the President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto, Sweden’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Robert Rydberg, and two of the foremost academic experts on the regime, Dr Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark and Dr Åsa Gustafsson. It is made clear how demilitarisation has been one of the foundations for a peaceful and prosperous development of relations in the Baltic Sea region.
From a research perspective, the demilitarisation as a phenomenon and practice has not been a theme under focus comparable to many other international relations dimensions. It is our hope that this issue can inspire further reflections on the utility of demilitarisation.
Kjell-Åke Nordquist, editor-in-chief