Security: Possibilities for Norwegian Stakeholders

Report - Other

Tønnesson, Stein (2006) Security: Possibilities for Norwegian Stakeholders, Comments on introduction by Clément Williamson, Project officer, European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry, : .

Mission Area 1 in the plan for theme 10 “Security” is “Security of the Citizen” and Mission Area 6 is “Security in Society.” From the perspective of the humanities and the social sciences this is what security is always about. Security is about people. Security is the security of citizens and society. At the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) we would like to see a people-based or citizen-focussed approach to security research agenda. And this should penetrate all the mission areas, both with large-scale projects based in the social sciences and humanities, and with human and social perspectives being included in projects with more technical scientific perspectives.

Security reflects a certain understanding of human life, of fears, expectations, hopes, and aspirations. Security presupposes a set of priorities, which are based on shared values: What can we afford to lose? What is worth making sacrifices for? Such values cannot just be taken for granted, but must be openly discussed and integrated in our research planning. Security is fundamentally social and cultural. It is an expression of the kind of society we wish to have. It reflects our identity to ourselves and relative to others. This must also be reflected in our research projects.

Security thinking in the 21st century and in the FP7 Theme 10 tends to instrumentalize people. That is, it tends to see them as a means to an end - called “security,” and which is implicitly understood as the protection of institutions, buildings and infrastructure. However this must be turned around: People must be seen as the primary aim and end of security.

Fortunately, a number of the activities of the planned first call of Theme 10 on Security (2007) open for important and exciting challenges for the human and social sciences. And it is essential that we do not just carry out research on our own, but interact with more instrumentally oriented researchers. It is not necessary to make the humanities and social sciences into an add-on to security research. On the contrary, security is already deeply imprinted in the human and social issues that are at the core of the programme. Here are some potential points of entry for the human and social sciences into Theme 10:

Mission Area 1: “Increasing the security of citizens:”

  1. Key methods of risk analysis reflect their social and cultural settings, a key domain of sociology.
  2. Terror threat is media-steered and lends itself to media analysis
  3. Terror target-determination reflects social values, the object of certain branches of social economics.
  4. To develop threat assessment models presupposes precise knowledge about risk of violent outbreaks both inside Europe and in the world Europeans engage with. This may require the use of advanced statistics and of programming simulation for covariates that tend to enhance violent behaviour. Close co-operation between statistically oriented social scientists and IT specialists would then be necessary.
  5. Religious extremism is co-determined by religion, economics, and culture, best analyzed and understood by the cultural, religious and social scientific methods.
  6. The security of citizens has varied historically. Historical studies of shifting levels of security may tell us why.

Mission Area 2: “Security of infrastructures and utilities:”

  1. The value of critical infrastructure is in part symbolic. Understanding it requires the tools of semiotics.
  2. The value of commodities produced and transported by critical infrastructure is market determined, deeply linked to moral and psychological concepts such as trust, confidence, fear and social climate.

Mission Area 3: “Intelligent surveillance and enhancing border security:”

  1. Surveillance involves trade-offs between utility, justice, rights, and ethical values: the purview of law, legal philosophy and ethics.
  2. Investing in the technologies of surveillance and border security also have social costs, the object of social ethics and socio-economics.

Mission Area 4: “Restoring security and safety in case of crisis:”

  1. Crisis management requires knowledge of societies and cultures. Here social anthropology, social psychology and cultural studies have important contributions to make.
  2. Understanding of damage to societies requires understanding customs, cultural priorities and social values.

[Mission Area 5 is not part of the first call]

Mission Area 6: “Security and society:”

  1. Insecurity  is a profoundly psychological state. It must be studied with the tools of psychology, philosophy and sociology.
  2. Vulnerability, a central element in Theme 10, cannot be defined in material terms alone. It is a moral- and value laden term. Human sciences hold the key to understanding these.
  3. The question of the ethical obligations of security industry to society is a direct concern of political theorists and philosophers.

A final point must be made. We know from both the historical and contemporary experience that measures meant to enhance security often create more insecurity and fear than trust and security. This is indeed the aim of those who use terrorist tactics. Their aim is to provoke the “enemy” to take measures that alienate parts of the population so the insurgent movement  - or terrorist network - can recruit more fighters. The aim of terrorists is to instill fear. Indeed the word “terror” means fear. The American cartoon Doonesbury got out this point recently when showing a press conference, where the journalists asked questions to an invisible man called “Mr Fear.” One of the journalists asked him: “Why isn’t your sister with you here today?” Mr Fear replied: “It was not considered politically convenient that Ms Terror take part in today’s press conference.” Security research based on European values must focus on the security of the citizen, and build on an understanding that security is not primarily about physical protection, but about fear and trust.



    Stein Tønnesson

    Stein Tønnesson

    Research Professor