More information on “Unravelling the Secrets of Crisis Detection and Decisive Action”

In recent years, several crises have caught national authorities by surprise. Critical cries of Why did they not see it coming? Why did they not act earlier? have echoed across political arenas and media venues. In hindsight, it often appears that there were clear ‘signals’ of impending doom. The problem facing research and practice is two-fold: crisis signals are not always clear and authorities do not always act. This project investigates the sources of this two-fold problem and identifies an effective way of organizing to detect and act on emerging threats. It aims to develop an evidence-based method of detection that is more likely to prompt an intervention that can mitigate the effects of a crisis or halt its development. Our project will help Sweden and its international partners detect and deal with emerging threats in an effective and legitimate way. This is a crucial mission for societies facing increasingly complex threats that originate in far-away domains. This project gathers what is known about effective threat detection and intervention methods. It will analyze a set of Swedish detection/intervention systems related to high-priority threats, comparing them against the best practices found in High Reliability Theory research. It looks at human, organizational and technical arrangements for threat detection in nine (9) sectors. The findings will be disseminated to practitioners in the form of actionable guidelines and to scholars in the form of leading journal articles. The project team will organize frequent meetings with officials and disseminate our findings in newspaper editorials, public workshops and scholarly conferences.

Related reading in Swedish:
Tolv miljoner till forskning om hur förmågan att agera på smygande kriser kan stärkas.

New project!

The Societal Security research project is proud to announce a new project called “Unravelling the Secrets of Crisis Detection and Decisive Action” (2024-2027). Selected by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) after a competitive, two-stage selection process featuring many applicants, the project will bring scientific insights to bear on understanding the perennial challenge of spotting new threats–and mobilizing political action.

Watch this space for new information soon!

Workshop on Climate Change as a Creeping Crises

On 28 November 2023 from 9:00-12:00 we gathered to uncover ‘best practice’ in detecting creeping crises and intervening to mitigate their effects. The challenge of detecting and intervening to manage creeping crises plagues modern governance. This workshop brought together practitioners and academics to discuss the case of climate as a creeping crisis. It asked what we’ve learned from recent experience, to help identify the secondary effects of climate change and how to mitigate local impact. Experts from all Swedish governance levels explored what has led to effective climate change adaptation — and where more work is needed.

The event was held at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, in hybrid format. Find a video of the event below.

Magnus Ekengren speaks on ‘Creeping Crises’

At a recent virtual seminar of the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences, research group member Professor Magnus Ekengren spoke of the phenomenon of ‘Creeping Crises’. Magnus spoke of the key characteristics of creeping crises and assessed whether Covid-19 fulfills the definition.

Note: Video in Swedish.

Click here for more info:

Lecture: What is a societal crisis?

Mark Rhinard’s lecture at Stockholm University’s third Sustainability forum on the topic “From crisis to sustainability” on 22 April 2021.

Societies once treated ‘crises’ as unpredictable events requiring urgent responses under conditions of uncertainty. Crises would come and go: discrete events that represent interruptions to normal life. Today’s crises seem different. Issues like climate change, spreading pandemics and economic turbulence appear as permanent fixtures of our lives. We know about them. We live with them. And yet, with only some exceptions, the sense of urgency is not there. Governments do not act in time or do not act at all.

What explains how modern societies manage these ‘creeping’ crises? What kind of capacities are required to do so? What might prompt governments to act before it’s too late – either in terms of damage or their own lost legitimacy?

Listen to the lecture to hear more about these questions!

Announcing the crisis conference “After the Deluge” for this fall

We are still in the midst of the biggest crisis of our times. Yet, we have to move forward and learn the lessons of this and other crises, to assist politicians and policymakers in their efforts to build stronger, more resilient institutions.

To this effect, we are organizing a hybrid and truly interdisciplinary conference this fall where we are bringing together a group of academics and practitioners to collect the lessons from COVID-19 and other crises to prepare for future contingencies.

After the Deluge: How to Update our Institutions for Creeping Crises

This hybrid conference is jointly organized by Leiden and Utrecht University (The Netherlands).

27-29 October, 2021

Save the date – more information SOON

Contact Arjen Boin ( for more information

Congratulations Mark Rhinard! Winner of JCMS Best Article Prize for 2019

Front page JCMSThe article ‘The Crisisification of Policy‐making in the European Union’ has won the Best Article in 2019 prize from the Journal of Common Market Studies a top-ranked journal in the field of International Relations. The article, written by Mark Rhinard, Professor of International Relations, is available Open Access at

The jury said of the article: ‘This thought provoking article is timely, wide-ranging and compellingly argued. It is of clear significance to a very broad area of scholarship. It provides a careful and rigorous analysis. This is an important and impressive article. The jury loved this article, which “talks” to us intimately and resonate with the environment in which we are finding ourselves.’

New Report on Climate Change and Migration

The adverse effects of climate change can drastically change living conditions in many parts of the world. In a new report from Fores and European Liberal Forum (ELF), researcher Elin Jakobsson provides the reader with the key features of climate-driven migration as a phenomenon, and the policy processes which surround it, and proposes a set of recommendations specifically aimed at policy makers in the EU to address migration and displacement caused by climate change.

In sum, the report sends the following message to EU policy makers:

  1. More efforts needs to be put into streamlining definitions in order to create a unified terminology and a common language on climate-driven migration. There have been conceptual advancements in the past few years but confusion and discrepancies related to the scope and definitions regarding climate-driven migration still persist.
  2. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) gives more attention to climate-driven migration than has been given to previous agreements in the UN system. However, the suggested measures are not overly specified and it will be very much up to states to take these forward. With this in mind, the EU should make use of and safeguard the GCM as a forum for negotiations and discussions. In doing so, EU institutions and representatives should:
    • Strive to advance and promote issues related to climate-driven migration in the GCM context.
    • Encourage all member states to sign the compact.
  3. A large group of climate-driven migrants are not sufficiently covered by existing protection mechanisms. EU protection for climate-driven migrants should therefore be strengthened. Such strengthening measures could include:
    • To recognize natural disasters as a cause of forced displacement – and  thus a provision to attain protection status within the frames of the new EU Qualification Regulation.
    • To consider the possibilities of international protection even where there might be a theoretical option of internal flight in order to relieve pressure on local resources and ecosystems (especially as such pressure has proven to be a breeding ground for conflict).
    • To assist people and states in need with finding safe spots after sudden-onset disasters. This can be done through humanitarian assistance, temporary permits or humanitarian visas.
    • To assist international humanitarian organizations and exposed states with resettlement-like solutions for displaced people, where appropriate. This should also be considered for cases of slow-onset disasters (eg. droughts and sea-level rise), where relocation is needed as a way of supporting vulnerable communities who have fewer chances of maintaining their livelihoods as a result of environmental degradation.

Read more and download the report here.

PUPOL Conference April 2020

The Societal Security Research Group will host a series of panels at the fifth PUPOL (Public and Political Leadership) International Conference taking place in The Hague, the Netherlands, on the 16th and 17th of April 2020.

The Leiden Leadership Centre of Leiden University, including Professor Arjen Boin, will act as a host for this conference. Please contact if you have any questions or remarks.

For more information, click here.