The National Risk Profile: an analysis of public safety and security in the Netherlands

Various possible National Safety and Security issues depicted

“An outbreak of a serious infectious disease, a major natural disaster or terrorist attack could destabilise society. However, financial instability or a cyber-attack could also seriously threaten or affect the security interests of the Netherlands,” says Leendert Gooijer of RIVM. In order to map these and other threats, the Dutch National Network of Safety and Security Analysts published the first National Risk Profile (NRP) in December 2016, which the Minister of Security and Justice then sent to the House of Representatives of the Netherlands. From his position as coordinator of the Analysts Network for RIVM, Gooijer has made significant contributions to the National Risk Profile.

The National Network of Safety and Security Analysts is a wide network of experts, with six core members and a connected circle of knowledge institutes and other organisations. RIVM coordinates the Analysts Network. 

The National Safety and Security Strategy, of which the NRP is a part, defines five national security interests: territorial and physical safety, economic and ecological security as well as socio-political stability. In order to determine the seriousness (impact) of a potential disaster or crisis, these security interests have been explored in detail and documented in the NRP in a list of criteria.

“In close collaboration with experts from the Analysts Network, we have determined how big the impact could be for each type of disaster threat and the likelihood that it will occur,” says Gooijer.

Impact and likelihood

Physical disasters, such as flooding, have a high impact, but the chance that they will actually occur is fairly small. However, most of the scenarios with a limited impact on a national scale do have a relatively high probability, things like an infectious animal disease or violent attacks by lone wolves. A serious flu pandemic is characterised by both major impact and high probability.

The National Risk Profile takes a closer look at developments that do not form a direct threat to national security, but do influence it, or might lead to new risks. That includes issues like climate change, trends in the socio-cultural domain or geopolitical shifts in power.

Technological innovations also influence risks. Due to increasing connectivity and the mutual dependence of systems, the failure or manipulation of critical infrastructure – through a cyber-attack or otherwise – might have huge consequences.

The NRP provides an overview of the risks and is intended as a starting point for continued policy and capacity development. “The government is already very active in risk control. Even so, there are avenues to explore for addressing specific risks by increasing capacity and expanding collaboration with safety regions,” says Gooijer.

National Safety and Security Strategy

RIVM has coordinated the drafting of the NRP and contributed important content. In the coming years, RIVM will continue to work in close collaboration with members of the network to elaborate on the potential risks indicated in the NRP.

RIVM coordinates the activities of the National Network of Safety and Security Analysts. Since 2011, this knowledge network has been making analyses in the context of the National Safety and Security Strategy. This strategy has been developed by the government to identify the disasters, crises or threats that could endanger public safety and security in the Netherlands and what could be done to address them.

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