Juhana Vartiainen – Knowledge does not increase pain

Juhana Vartiainen, Mayor of Helsinki

Security is a feeling: a sense that you can be yourself, make your dreams come true, and reach your goals without having to face any risks or peril. Security is also a feeling of trust: the expectation that every one of us will be treated in the same manner, no matter the situation, no matter where we go.

Yet in order to have this security, we must also be prepared to take action.

Cities create safety and security for their residents every day of every year. Finland is one of the world’s safest countries, largely due to the close collaboration of many different actors. According to Finland’s Security Strategy for Society, the strength of our security cooperation model lies in the fact that it covers all levels and actors of our community. Universities, research institutions, organisations, other bodies and individuals work jointly with the central government, other official authorities, business operators, and regions and municipalities to form a shared network of comprehensive security.

But we’re not perfect. Room for improvement can be found, for example, in our regulatory framework and common operating models. On a city level, we recognise an enhanced need for information, especially with regard to preparedness and risk detection. Ministerial-level information should be shared more openly with the municipal-level, and there should be more recognition of cities’ ability to perform and execute critical safety and security measures. There’s an old Finnish proverb that says that “Knowledge increases pain”, but when it comes to security, the opposite is true. Information sharing has a direct effect on city-level preparedness levels, response timeliness and resource allocation. As Finland’s largest city, Helsinki feels a special responsibility for safeguarding and maintaining a good security situation. As the security environment constantly changes around us, we seek to develop and carry out our role in an improved fashion.

Another prerequisite for general safety and security is faith in the central government’s – and everyone else’s – willingness to defend our nation, if necessary. Without a united front in this area, there is no chance of success. A current example of this kind of resolute common purpose is currently on display in Ukraine, while its absence is evident in the recent collapse of the Afghan regime.

In addition to their domestic roles, cities also play a significant role on the international arena. Cities are already working together in many ways, for example, assisting Ukraine with rebuilding efforts, accommodating temporary protection or asylum seekers, and managing the effects of the pandemic. But this work could be developed to be even more significant. City collaboration strengthens the implementation of key goals on the strategic level, as well as the coordination of concrete measures that can be executed in a flexible and efficient manner.

I am extremely pleased that Helsinki and the City of Helsinki are such a visible part of the Helsinki Security Forum. I like to think that the very name of the Forum communicates the importance of the role of cities as a fundamental component of the international security environment.

Welcome to Helsinki – one of the best places in the world to live and enjoy life!


Juhana Vartiainen is the Mayor of Helsinki

Martina Klimes, Emma Hakala, Saara Leppänen and Aaron Salzberg
for HSF Blog

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