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Conflict Resolution via Policy Learning: A Comparative Analysis of Enablers and Obstacles to Marine National Park Establishment in Sweden

Environmental Policy
Coalition
Policy Change
Policy-Making
Annica Sandström
Lulea University of Technology
Sara Söderström
Södertörn University
Annica Sandström
Lulea University of Technology

Abstract

While nature conservation ranks high on the global political agenda, national attempts to implement protected areas often meet conflicts and resistance. A deeper understanding of such processes in terms of drivers and obstacles is important to implement environmental policy. This paper deals with policy change and focuses on policy coalitions, and the interplay between rival coalitions, in order to explore divergent outcomes in national park planning processes. A recent longitudinal document study of three Swedish cases of national park planning, over three decades, suggests that critical external events, combined with either negotiated agreements or policy learning across coalitions, are the main pathways to change. Yet, how conflicts are addressed, and policy learning comes about, and the role of key actors therein, require further analysis. This paper aims to explore and explain the occurrence of conflict resolution via policy learning through an in-depth qualitative case study analysis of two cases of marine national park planning: Koster Sea and Sankt Anna Archipelago. The cases show similar characteristics in relation to overall context and problems but differ in outcomes related to policy learning. The following questions guide the analysis: Which factors influence the degree of conflict resolution via policy learning? Which characteristics regarding key actors, coalitions and process promote or obstruct belief change and convergence of policy beliefs? Our theoretical framework combines the Institutional Analysis and Development framework, the Advocacy Coalition Framework and conflict management theory. Our results are expected to inform both the scientific discourse by connecting different fields of environmental social sciences research and to assist policy making in relation to the establishment of protected areas in the sea and onshore.