How can governments prepare for and manage high impact risks
Disaster risk management of threats and hazards is one of the critical responsibilities and function of all governments.
Citizens of any country depend on their governments to protect them, the society and everything that belongs to it – infrastructure, economy, environment, and culture from any form of disaster, either from natural or unnatural events.
Governments also need to adequately invest in pre-emptive measures to enhance resilience and prepare for extreme events and threats such as climate change, technological threats, and biological threats; some of these hazards will likely happen at some point, and others can easily turn into a crisis.
Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between scientific and policy awareness and actual policy and investment actions.
The report from The University of Auckland’s Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures, “Uncertain But Inevitable: The Expert-Policy-Political Nexus and High-Impact Risks”, seeks to address this gap.
According to the report, pre-emptive actions are potentially expensive and often delayed or ignored because of uncertainty that these extreme events (effects of climate change) are likely to happen within a timeframe, within our lifetime, or within a perceivable future, so the risk is downplayed or ignored.
However, inactions or delay are not because of deficiencies or ability to identify hazards and assess risk but related to “human factors of communication and judgment, the nature of political and policy decision-making, and the cognitive biases and variable risk perception different actors”.
The report contrasts how private sectors and public sectors manage accountability. The former generally have clear accountabilities when it comes to risk management, whereas the latter’s accountabilities are often spread out and often unassignable – the cause of this is attributed to the ambiguity of the risk and hazards.
Further notes from the report are as follows:
- The emergence of the misinformation age further compounds the problem and muddle both risk assessment and response.
- Having a transparent and systemic approach to risk identification will allow governments to fight misinformation and establish effective risk management.
- Governments need to develop and publish a national risk register that outlines the major risks that countries face and those that could develop into more crises.
- Following creating a risk register, governments should also prepare for these risks and communicate their understanding to the public and private sectors to increase awareness and public acceptance.
- The simple fact is that ignorance or denial of high-impact events can be very costly and leads to catastrophic outcomes.
Topics discussed in the report include the following:
- The challenges of high-impact rare, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the two challenges for government policy;
- Human factors and resistance to action;
- Policy and political dimensions and prioritization, and how can governments learn from experience and improve the process in the future.