Dec 6, 2007

Strategic Crisis Management: Trends and Concepts

The Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich [Swiss Federal Institute of Technology], has released a new paper on 21st Century challenges for security policymakers. Strategic Crisis Management: Trends and Concepts. [3-page pdf]

This paper describes how the expansion of the international threat spectrum has also lead to changes in the requirements for strategic crisis management. The author details how horizontally and vertically networked efforts of all relevant actors and institutions are required within the framework of a holistic crisis management approaches. The paper details how in conceiving such "homeland security" systems, two approaches have emerged, an institutional one and a process oriented one. The author states that in the case of Switzerland both aspects can be detected, although key questions about crisis response and leadership structures remain open.


In shaping crisis management effectively, it is necessary to take into account trans­formations in the social and political environment. Special attention should be given to tendencies to mediatize and politicize crises. These two phenomena have reciprocal effects. Crisis manage­ment is an inherently political task. Dur­ing a crisis, political actors are expected by citizens, organizations, and the media to supply explanations for events and to swiftly reestablish the normal state of affairs. If crisis management fails in a crisis situation characterized by danger, insecu­rity, and time pressure, this can undermine trust in the crisis management abilities of the political institutions as well as their legitimacy.

On the other hand, the media already play an important role in identifying and defin­ing a situation as a crisis by moving a giv­en critical situation into the focus of public attention through their communication of information and the mode of reporting. Since the media may have a strong influ­ence on a critical situation and its pub­lic perception, crisis communication has become an important element of crisis management for decision-makers. The flood of images that follows every crisis outbreak must be managed proactively. This requires a professional handling of the media on the part of those bearing politi­cal responsibility.

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