When COVID-19 hit the Nordic Countries in early 2020, a distinct Nordic crisis management principle known as the sector responsibility principle (a principle of decentralized preparedness planning and crisis management) was submitted to its hitherto most dramatic test: managing a full-scale crisis response across virtually all societal sectors and with an open-ended timeline which stretched for months and, as it turned out, years.
Two years later, in early 2022, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian government commission reports all concluded that the principle to some extent had failed. In response to the most comprehensive crisis in societal security since WWII, the sector responsibility principle’s underlying philosophy of decentralized crisis management had had to give way to strong political leadership, centralized decision-making and strategic, top-down direction-setting. The failure of the sector responsibility principle during the COVID-19 crisis calls for systematic analyses of the principle’s implications, of how it was reinterpreted during the crisis, of the long-term consequences for Nordic crisis management, and of the very way in which Nordic societies organize and navigate the relationship between different societal sectors in the future. This research project sets out to answer this call.