societal security programme committee

Our ability to deal with threats and risks needs strengthening

Photo: Terje Heiestad

Why is it important to do research on societal security?

“Developing societal security is important for citizens. Vulnerabilities in society need to be eradicated, and we need to strengthen our ability to deal with threats and risks. Our approach needs to be knowledge-based, evidence-based. So research in these subjects is also important to support the strengthening of societal security, for instance through education and conducting exercises.”

What is the advantage of doing research at the Nordic level rather than nationally or internationally?

“National research groups are quite small, and national research needs to be fuelled by interaction with colleagues and issues from other countries’ research environments. International research is excellent and is often quality-driven, but it can be cumbersome and does not always target needs in the field. Comparative Nordic research adds aspects of quality without the high transaction costs that broader research collaboration can entail.”

How can Nordic research cooperation help to enhance preparedness and societal security?

“Conditions are similar enough in neighbouring countries that the results from comparative research on various issues, using empirical data from these countries, can be applied more directly in the countries’ efforts towards societal security. What is needed is continual interplay between research-based knowledge and proven experience – in a societal context that is relevant to a country’s needs and possibilities.”

What societal security challenges does the Nordic region face now?

“Societal security is increasingly subjected to a variety of cross-border flows, including infection, cyber-threats, finance, migrants, criminals, antagonists and more. In October 2019 the Nordic Council adopted a Nordic strategy for societal security to identify these challenges and set a course for the important joint efforts to build capacity. Hopefully the Nordic governments will heed this call from the Nordic Council and work to achieve these goals for improved societal security.”

During the current pandemic, the Nordic countries have taken criticism for dealing with the crisis in very different ways, for example their different policies on closing borders. What are your thoughts on this?

“In this emergency, it has proven politically convenient to quickly re-establish borders between the Nordic countries – to reintroduce border restrictions on citizens’ freedom of movement (a freedom enjoyed since the 1950s). The national authorities have also not managed to maintain a common, coordinated policy for dealing with the spread of infection without becoming fragmented. Residents of the border areas have been particularly hard-hit. The same applies to the wider circle of EU countries (Schengen).”