Nordic safety meets new threats

The Nordic countries are known to be open, safe, and modern societies. But disasters and threats – both violent and digital – are entering the scene. Namely because of their openness, the Nordic countries are especially vulnerable.
Nordic safety meets new threats

Marit Nybakk, President of the Nordic Council


On 20 March 2013, The Nordic Council arranged for a seminar in the Storting of Norway on Societal Security. The day was well fit as the Storting the same day announced a white paper to follow up the report from the 22 July Commission. Also on this day NordForsk published a new report on Societal Security in the Nordic Countries, which presented a coming research programme on the subject.

Threats on our societal security can take on many shapes – from cyber-attacks that paralyze our e-Infrastructure, to students who shoot their schoolmates, to floodings and volcanic eruptions. The seminar focused on cyber and information security and on civil protection.

The President of the Nordic Council Marit Nybakk underlined in her opening speech the significance and seriousness of the subject:

- The Norwegian society was tested by one man on the 22 July. And it failed. This is a serious judgment from which we now have to learn.

This is why the Nordic organisations now put the subject on the political agenda, to create development both within research and within the Nordic security organizations.

Borders make the North vulnerable

The biggest challenge to Nordic security is that our countries have organized the civil and military defence very differently. These differences can delay response time to an attack.

Grete Faremo, the Norwegian Minister of Justice and Public Security, stated that we in the North share many values as well as geographic proximity. And these are significant reasons for us to cooperate to increase security, since the new threats are without borders. A disaster in Sweden can cause as much damage to the Norwegian and Danish population as to the Swedish. This is why cross border collaboration must come to work more smoothly than it does today.

The Director of NordForsk Gunnel Gustafsson kept to this point, since NordForsk as a platform for joint research collaboration recently has decided to fund a programme on societal security with 20 mill NOK. Within this programme the best researches from the Nordic countries can cooperate and produce new knowledge. So far, Sweden and Norway has decided to contribute to the funding of the programme.


From Research to Action

All participants agreed that research is the most important component in strengthening societal security and that the knowledge needs to be disseminated to the different stakeholders. So one important question discussed was how to secure this transition. Per Brekke from The Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB) pinpointed the essence of Nordic cooperation and action: We see systems work and research is been put into action, when a Danish helicopter with a Swedish fire fighter rescues a Norwegian sailor.

It takes trust and dialogue to make cooperation successful. Dialogue among researchers and dialogue between researchers, organizations and politicians is needed. And it takes trust between civil and military organizations, nationally and across the Nordic borders. Professor at the National Defence College in Sweden Bengt Sundelius summarized the discussions by enhancing exactly trust and an overall perspective as key factors in strengthening societal security in the Nordic counties.

The Nordic Council will continue to put forward this important subject. Next, a session on societal security will be held in Stockholm on the 10-11 April 2013.

Text: Linn Hoff Jensen

Photo: Anne Riiser

The Programme 20. March 2013

Download the report "Societal security in the Nordic Countries"

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