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International conference addresses societal security challenges in the Baltic Sea Region

On the 11th and 12th of June, the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute (SIPRI) brought together over 150 policymakers, researchers and experts within the field of societal security and civil protection in Stockholm to discuss the societal security challenges that the Baltic Sea States face. The Conference was organised in the context of the Swedish Presidencies of the Barents-Euro Arctic Council, the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the Nordic Council of Ministers.

The conference was opened by Ambassador Jan Eliasson, former United Nations Deputy Secretary-General and current Chair of SIPRI. Ambassador Eliasson remarked that ‘security starts at home’ and that the bedrock for national, regional and international security is a well-functioning society.

Monday´s keynote speaker, HE Margot Wallström, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs highlighted the important role regional organisations play as “a platform for dialogue” and that a focus on youth needs to be reinforced. Touching on the theme of the conference, Wallström pointed out the importance of cooperation and working together to help build a common security concept: “If my neighbours feel safe and secure, I will feel safe and secure”.

The keynote address was followed by the opening plenary session on ‘Societal security challenges in the Baltic Sea region: The scope of the problems’ moderated by SIPRI Director Dan Smith. The panel featured CBSS Director General Ambassador Maira Mora, Rainer Saks, Secretary General for the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Professor Bengt Sundelius from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and Igor Neverov, Director, Second European Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Russia).  Director General Maira Mora began with outlining the range of challenges and threats faced by the Baltic Sea region such as terrorism, cyber attacks and the effects of climate change. She stated that however, it is important to discern the difference between actual threats and the perception of threats. She then preceded to present the work of the CBSS as an arena to convene dialogue and enhance and strengthen people-to-people contacts.

Ambassador Mora recognized that digitalization, urbanization and climate change were the three most pressing challenges faced by the region. Ambassador Mora cited a recent European public opinion poll that showed there had been a significant fall in the proportion of respondents who think that Europe is a secure place to live in.

Professor Bengt Sundelius, Strategic Adviser at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and co-coordinator of Policy Area Secure pointed that “no one is home alone”, alluding to the importance of regional cooperation as a means to ensure societal safety. Taking the example of PA Secure and its projects, capacity should be built and seen as a long-term investment. Technology is not the most important part of it but it is vital to bridge mental, professional, sectoral and national gaps as well as provide a platform for professionals and experts to connect. Fellow panellist Rainer Saks, Secretary General, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs seconded the success of the current cooperation efforts within the Baltic Sea Region. Read more about breakout sessions and panels