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PA Secure at EUSBSR Annual Forum in Riga: whole of society approach for resilience

Workshop “All hands on deck: safe and secure Baltic Sea Region through “whole-of-society” approach” was organised on 4 October 2023 by the Policy Area Secure of EUSBSR which is coordinated by the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and Swedish Contingencies Agency (MSB). The main aim of the workshop was to present the concept of a “whole of society approach” and discuss how state authorities, civil society organisations, and individuals can cooperate to make the Baltic Sea Region safer and more resilient. The workshop was designed in a practical and interactive way giving an opportunity to the participants to share their views and opinions, to test their knowledge and preparedness to various crisis situations and ask questions.

Facilitators and speakers of the workshop represented state authorities such as the Ministry of the Interior of Finland, Swedish Contingencies Agency, State Fire and Rescue Service of Latvia and civil society organisations such as the Finnish National Rescue Association (SPEK).

Jari Honkanen, Senior Specialist at the Department for Rescue Services in the Ministry of the Interior of Finland explained the comprehensive security model of Finnish preparedness, where vital societal functions are handled together by authorities, businesses, NGOs and citizens. He highlighted the importance of individual preparedness and trust among the authorities and society.

Bengt Sundelius, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Swedish Defense University, Strategic Adviser to the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) set the scene by providing a conceptual background to different domains of security and resilience: individual, local, national and macro-regional.

When disaster strikes, an individual should be able to cope on his or her own for at least three days. Ivars Nakurts Deputy Chief, State Fire and Rescue Service of Latvia and his colleague Agrita Vītola, Senior Inspector of SFRS checked if participants know how to act. Latvian experts challenged the audience to pack an emergency bag within just 15 minutes. They also explained what should be in such a bag and how to prepare for the emergency evacuation.

Continuing with the “whole of society approach” that means promoting and supporting community engagement and empowering citizens to take an active role, the last interactive mini session in the workshop focused on voluntary work in strengtheing societal resilience. Niko Ara, Development Manager at the Finnish National Rescue Association (SPEK) guided participants through the process of voluntary work in Finland. Participants were asked to answer various questions about volunteerism and share their thoughts and readiness to provide support to others in crisis situation. Their answers are summarized in the attached presentation.

The workshop organisers received many positive comments from the audience. Feedback included: “This workshop made me think about potential emergencies and question my preparedness to them”, “Thank you for the mix of information and interactive parts – it was interesting”, “The interactive format made sure that you had the audience’s attention 100% of time” and “Thank you for not having too much PowerPoint”