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University of Tromsø Societal Security Workshop

On 15-16 November this annual conference gathered researchers and affiliated organizations to discuss current issues in societal security research. Three keynote speeches were provided by Professor Bengt Sundelius (Swedish Defence University), Professor Arjen Boin (Leiden University) and Professor Jonas Johansson (Lund University). Ongoing research projects with their tentative results were also presented as well as potential future initiatives. A representative from the CBSS Secretariat’s Civil Security team was invited to present the Baltic Sea Region Research Network on Societal Security (BSR-RNSS).

The workshop offered a great platform for organisations working with societal security research to meet and discuss contemporary issues. One of the most prominent challenges that was highlighted is that threats are not only transborder in their nature they are also transboundary. Professor Arjen Boin emphasised during his lecture that “we must prepare for a new threat environment where various types of crisis situations do not respect any types of boundaries”, and he further stressed that this is “a consequence of the higher level of interdependencies between different systems – the systems that create high efficiency also produce higher vulnerability”. His conclusion was that the existing crisis management systems are not sufficient in the face of a
transboundary disaster.

Professor Bengt Sundelius further highlighted how “we have moved away from managing systems, to having to manage systems of systems in a crisis – which are highly complex, and are not fully understood.” Thereafter, he presented the most common failures in decision making in “high-stakes situations” that the literature has put forward, highlighting that it is difficult to act correctly in those situations – but at least it is possible to try to avoid the most common mistakes and failures. Presenting results from his research on the resilience of critical infrastructure, Professor Jonas Johansson illustrated to what extent different systems in our society are interconnected. One key insight he has gained through his studies is that “we have very limited knowledge of what happens in a society when we start pulling one string”. Several other research projects were also presented during the workshop. Among others the ECoHuCY Project – Enablement besides Constraints: Human Security and a Cyber Multi-disciplinary Framework in the European High North, which is a EUSBSR flagship under Policy Area Secure.

Nina Jernberg, from the CBSS Secretariat, presented the Baltic Sea Region Research Network on Societal Security (BSR-RNSS), which is a new initiative with Seed Funding from the Swedish Institute. The initiative targets the need to utilize results from research and projects to a greater extent, and the accessibility to results both for other researchers but most of all for end-users and practitioners. The current undertaking of this initiative is to map out the existing cooperation structures and platforms, to identify the gaps. The participants in the workshop expressed great interest in the initiative after the presentation, and the University of Lund stated that they would like to join the next meeting with the network in Espoo, Finland, on 22 – 23 January 2019.

It was highly relevant for the CBSS Secretariat to participate in the workshop since the connection to research institutions is important to strengthen. This is important especially since the cooperation on better utilisation of research and project results is a prioritised area in the Joint Position on Enhanced Cooperation in the Civil Protection Area, adopted by the Directors General for Civil Protection in the BSR in May 2017.