Specialist, Safety and Preparedness Unit, Executive Office of the City of Helsinki (Finland)
I work as a specialist on urban security in the Safety and Preparedness Unit of the City of Helsinki since December 2020. My educational background is in the Social Sciences with Politics as my major, and previously I have worked in senior-level positions related to immigration, integration, refugee law and gender-based violence. In the Safety and Preparedness Unit we work as the city-level expert bodies on urban security issues, such as challenges with the youth, substance abuse, and preventing radicalisation, develop a data-based situational picture, coordinate city-level networks and participate actively in national and international multi-professional co-operation. During the past years we’ve had the pleasure to act as the Action Lead in the Urban Agenda for the EU’s Partnership on Security in Public Spaces and coordinate the development of a self-assessment tool for urban authorities.
Do you have any specific hopes or predictions for the future of urban security? (What will urban security look like in 30 years? What will be the main opportunities and risks?)
While the predictions concerning megatrends such as the development and role of technology and the success in combatting the climate change are uncertain on a time span as long as 30 years, it is quite safe to say that the future threats for urban security probably continue to be global with some variations on the local level, and the influences will spread fast both in the physical and in the virtual environment. Both the opportunities and risks lie in the rapidly changing forms of communications – for example the easily accessible social media channels used by the leading politicians and experts as well as any citizen offer us not only timely information but also a sense of belonging in communities we want to identify ourselves with. The risk is that this will divide the citizens further into parallel realities when it comes to information, attitudes and trust towards the social systems, authorities and law. The opportunities however also lie in the possibilities to share real-time information internationally and openly on mutual challenges, risks and solutions.
Why do you think it is so important to involve citizens in urban security practice?
Social cohesion that promotes inclusion and at the same time allows diversity is key when building and maintaining a safe city for all. Whilst we encounter evermore mutual threats globally – be it climate change, rise of internationally linked extremist movements and acts of terrorism, or pandemics – people across the world, Europe and even within the same city have very different resources at hand. The population of Helsinki will be increasingly diverse in languages and cultures – the prediction is that already by the year 2030 26% of citizens will be of foreign background. This means that societal inclusion at all levels must be improved in order to maintain a high level of trust to other citizens, authorities and the rule of law. Polarisation and segregation will continue to deepen if we won’t tackle these issues with conscious effort. I hope understanding urban security with a holistic approach will gain even more space in the planning and evaluating of practises to promote safe public spaces for all.