Hemvärnssoldat släcker brand norr om Kårböle. När som helst kan den pyrande branden flamma upp och soldaterna håller noggrant utkik efter glöd och öppna lågor för att kunna bekämpa dessa omgående.Runt byn Kårböle i norra Hälsingland rasar tre stora skogsbränder. Byn är sedan en vecka tillbaka evakuerad och släckningsarbetet pågår febrilt mot elden med samlade förmågor från olika myndigheter, frivilliga samt tillrest räddningstjänst från flera europeiska grannländer. Brandområdena är indelade i tre olika sektorer där man försöker isolera elden inom så kallade begränsningslinjer. Förutom att hindra vidare spridning så är det särskilt viktigt att hålla elden borta från orten Kårböle samt viktig infrastruktur.

Photo: Mats Nyström/ Swedish Armed Forces

How can Swedish laws of crisis and war be improved?

In Sweden, peacetime crises, war, and the threat of war are regulated in different ways and managed in separate systems that fall under crisis preparedness and total defence, respectively. In a new research project, researchers at the Swedish Defence University and Uppsala University are investigating whether legislation could be better integrated and whether the regulations for peacetime crises and war and the threat of war should be changed.

The research project will support administrators and lawyers in emergency preparedness and total defence with analysis and high-quality research. In addition, the project contributes to the development of doctrine, which up until now largely has been neglected.

"What is unique about the project is that we will work closely with a reference group with representatives from both emergency preparedness and total defence to ensure continuous testing and dissemination of the research results", says Marika Ericson, head of the Centre for Operational Law at the Swedish Defence University, who leads the project.

Portrait of Marika Ericson.

Marika Ericson, head of the Centre for Operational Law at the Swedish Defence University.

"The experience of the pandemic and the changing security situation in our immediate environment mean that these issues are highly topical. Governance and accountability issues are particularly important. The Swedish model stands out to some extent when compared with other European countries. Explanations and consequences of these differences are something we will look into", says Anna Jonsson Cornell, Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law at the Department of Law, Uppsala University.

The hope is that the research will contribute to an improved and broader knowledge base.

"This, in turn, has the potential to improve lawyers’ and policy makers’ confidence as they attempt to balance the need for effective management of crises and wars with individual rights and the protection of the constitution", says Marika Ericson.

Four perspectives on emergency preparedness and total defence

The project is framed by four perspectives; the system perspective, the legislative perspective, the business perspective, and the comparative perspective.

"The systems perspective focuses on norm governance at different levels and explores questions of how the accountability principle changes and functions when proxy legislation and exceptions intervene and change the tasks and interrelationships between authorities", explains Marika Ericson.

The legislative perspective focuses on how constitutional readiness relates to proxy laws and how exemption clauses in different laws may operate in relation to proxy laws. The business perspective explores how livelihood preparedness can be addressed from the legislative perspective. Finally, the comparative perspective provides opportunities to analyse how Swedish law reflects and deals with international law and to what extent Swedish law needs to evolve to reflect the developments in international law in recent decades.

PhD project focusing on the legal interface between crisis and war

Another part of the project is Linnea Gullholmer's recently begun dissertation work on the legal interface between crisis and war.

"I will examine the definition of war and where crisis preparedness ends and total defence begins. Today, there is actually no legal definition of war; instead, this comes down to the political assessment of a given situation", she says.

The aim of the project is to illustrate the effects that the government's decisions, or non-decisions, may have on the Swedish preparedness system in the cases of the three constitutional concepts of war, danger of war, and extraordinary circumstances.

"I'm just getting started and will begin by mapping the research situation and then look further by, among other things, going back to legal sources such as laws, preparatory works and examples from international law", says Gullholmer.

She sees being part of the research environments at both Uppsala University and the Swedish Defence University as a great advantage.

"I get to focus on my own research questions and at the same time be part of research environments with different profiles. At Uppsala University, I am part of a research group on public law that includes both constitutional law and administrative law, and at the Swedish Defence University the focus is on international law. I hope to strengthen the ties between the two environments in the course of my doctoral work", she says.

Four-year project

The research project, which started in October this year and will run until the end of 2026, is funded by SEK 8.9 million from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency.

"It's very unusual for them to fund a PhD project, but we're delighted that we'll be able to contribute both basic research and more applied research for the sector", says Marika Ericson.

Josefin Svensson

Related Reading

More about the research project: A coherent constitutional preparedness for peacetime crises, heightened preparedness and war.

Concepts and legal space for crisis preparedness and total defense

The basics of crisis management

Swedish crisis management is based on what are usually called the three basic principles; the principle of responsibility, the principle of equality and the principle of proximity.

The principle of responsibility

Anyone who is responsible for an activity under normal conditions must also have it during a crisis situation. This means, for example, that it is the usual health care that takes care of the violence even in a crisis, that the municipalities take care of schools and elderly care, and so on.

The principle of equality

During a crisis, the business should function in a similar way as in normal conditions – as far as possible. The activities must also, if possible, be managed in the same place as under normal conditions.

The proximity principle

A crisis should be managed when it occurs and by those who are most directly affected and responsible. Thus, it is primarily the affected municipality and the region in question that leads and works with the effort. Only if the local resources are not enough will state intervention be necessary.


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