In a complex and constantly changing world, security is a product not of stability, but of the ability to change.
Forum for New Security
In the autumn of 2013, Sitra brought together 30 people from various walks of life to consider the nature of “new security”, now and in the future. The Forum for New Security also included practical trials to search for new opportunities and concrete solutions to the latest security challenges. The forum convened for a total of 14 days across a period of six months, within Finland and during an excursion to Copenhagen. The resulting insights are now available online (in Finnish only). On the same site, you will find over 60 blogs and videos and further details on the trials and current practices for the promotion of new security.
A recipe for new security
Finland’s security environment has changed. Phenomena such as climate change, rising social inequality, loneliness and marginalisation, cyber threats in a digital world, and a financial system prone to crisis present complex challenges. Such phenomena can have surprising consequences which ripple through our networked world. In what is commonly viewed as a chaotic world – in which people increasingly lack control over their own lives – the feeling of insecurity is mounting.
Conventionally, security has been sourced as a separate entity from external organisations as the need arises – and usually only after a threat has already appeared. However, sudden upheaval, for which advance preparation is difficult, is only set to become more likely. We should therefore build tomorrow’s society based on flexible structures which can adapt to surprising developments. Above all, new security concerns getting to the heart of a problem before the consequences are allowed to magnify. For example, when planning new construction for an area susceptible to flooding, canals and green areas can be built to prevent flooding rather than using fire engines each spring to pump water off the streets. This would improve the desirability and functioning of an area, as well as its safety. If we compare it to baking, security is more like mixing the eggs with the dry ingredients than adding the icing to the top of a finished cake.
Restrictions do not make people feel secure
Trust is the glue that binds a society together. One of Finland’s strengths is that, as a small, egalitarian country, it can overcome sudden crises and thrive because Finns can rely on and have faith in each other. Security is built on trust. Traditionally, Finns also have a great deal of trust in the authorities, and rightly so. In essence, security is a feeling which cannot be created by the authorities or protective legislation alone. Such a feeling is based on control over one’s life, engagement in meaningful activity and having a say in things, as well as being part of a community.
Universal access and the right to primary care must be ensured, without stifling people’s ability and drive to develop solutions – individually and with others – that brighten up and improve their own living environments. In addition to providing supportive structures, organisations will be left with providing opportunities for participation and having an influence. New security sees civil servants as true “servants” of the people.
Resilience means bending without breaking
As the world becomes less predictable, resilience will be required in the era of new security. This will be based on the capacity of systems to adapt and react flexibly to serious disruptions, and the ability to recover, or even become stronger, in the wake of a crisis. Rather than maximum efficiency and centralisation, society should be built on a framework consisting of parts which continue to work independently, even if other parts fail. It is precisely because preparing for the future is becoming more difficult that foresight makes so much sense: the analysis of various future scenarios and of how to proceed if such scenarios are realised.
Finnish society is an attractive security product
Finland is repeatedly hailed as the world’s most stable country, or as a poster child for safety, happiness or Western democracy. We are also known as a trustworthy, highly educated and innovative nation. Finnish society is therefore an attractive security product which can be used to draw international firms to Finland, as well as skilled workforce who will start families and engage in productive work.
Finland has a good reputation and strong expertise in resolving conflicts and achieving peace in countries in crisis. The nation’s business activities are also playing a key role as a catalyst for global growth, especially in crisis prevention and recovery. Human security-related business activities, such as solutions for improving health, food or environmental security, represent opportunities for Finnish enterprises. Finland also has every prospect of developing a profile as a world expert in cyber security.
We can best keep pace with our rapidly changing world by trying out our ideas or plans as soon as possible. The Forum for New Security did just that: it conducted 11 practical trials involving activities such as improving the security of one’s own living environment, teaching basic cyber security skills to children and designing public services in a more user-oriented manner.
What else does new security entail? What lessons were learned from the trials? The forum’s insights will be posted online in May. Comments are already welcome on Twitter #newsecurity and Facebook www.facebook.com/uusiturvallisuus. Join the conversation!