On the 13th of April 2015, Dr. Kamrul Hossain – the HuSArctic project lead – has introduced the research project at the kick-off meeting held in the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland (You can find a report here). While giving a brief overview on the concept of societal security, he offered the statement:
“Societal security – a concept that has been developed in early 1990s as one of the five areas of security developed by the so-called Copenhagen school – is about promotion of collective identity in specific context. The concept relates to the capability of a society to preserve its essential characteristics in the face of variable circumstances. A threat to societal security as such can be framed from national, regional, local and, in some cases, trans-national perspectives, depending on the challenges to essential characteristics prevailing at various levels.”
Dr. Hossain suggests that promotion of societal security is important in order for overall national security to be strengthened. In this regard, he explains, “traditional notion of sovereignty oriented security (the national security) is irrelevant when security at a sub-state level is jeopardized as a result of various pressures not traditionally identified as security threats”. “However”, he continued, “With new developments emerged particularly over the last two decades, the concept of security understanding has achieved expanded meaning and a new angle. This new angle presented both individuals and communities as the referent objects.” This developments popularized yet another concept of security – human security, endorsed by the United Nations Human Development Program’s Human Development Report in 1994, which largely put seven categories of threats as the core of security challenges. These include: environmental, economic, community, food, health, personal and political security.
In his introduction, Dr. Hossain linked human aspects of security into societal context. In explaining these aspects of security understanding, he showed its importance in the context of circumpolar Arctic, with particular reference to the Barents region. According to him, expansion of human activities both in-land and offshore, will bring critical pressures on the region’s inhabitants, a significant portion of which is indigenous peoples – the Sámi for example in the Barents region. Traditional activities supporting the livelihoods of many local and indigenous peoples seem to either disappear or transformed into more modernized ways of livelihoods, endangering their survival and unique nature-based cultural identity. As environment is an aspect that will be drastically affected, Dr. Hossain said, “A conflicting premise concerning which of the security aspects – environmental or economic – should prevail is expected to cause serious tension amongst various interest groups in the region”. HuSArctic presents this complexity where it highlights on the democratization of security infrastructure at both local and trans-national level where common or identical values are perceived.
Dr. Hossain has also emphasized on the need for a multi-actors' engagement bringing relevant stakeholders on-board to keep continuing dialogue during the project period lasting for next four years. At the end of his speech, Dr. Hossain explained the implementation methodology of the project, where he highlighted not only on the creation of new knowledge by producing scientific articles but also on the continuous dialogues with local actors for a broader understanding of security challenges at societal level.