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Risk governance

Marjolein B.A. van Asselt and Ortwin Renn

Journal of Risk Research, 2011, vol. 14, issue 4, 431-449

Abstract: The term 'governance' has been used in political science to describe the multitude of actors and processes that lead to collective binding decisions. The term 'risk governance' involves the translation of the substance and core principles of governance to the context of risk-related decision-making. Does it involve a major change on how risks are conceptualized, managed, and communicated, or it is just a new fashion? In this paper, we aim to delineate the genesis and analytical scope of risk governance. In our view, risk governance pertains to the various ways in which many actors, individuals, and institutions, public and private, deal with risks surrounded by uncertainty, complexity, and/or ambiguity. It emphasizes that not all risks are simple; they cannot be calculated as a function of probability and effect. It is more than a descriptive shorthand for a complex, interacting network in which collective binding decisions are taken around a particular set of societal issues. The ambition is that risk governance provides a conceptual as well as normative basis for how to deal responsibly with uncertain, complex, and/or ambiguous risks in particular. We propose to synthesize the body of scholarly ideas and proposals on the governance of systemic risks in a set of principles: the communication and inclusion principle, the integration principle, and the reflection principle. This set of principles should be read as a synthesis of what needs to be seriously considered in organizing structures and processes to govern risks.

Date: 2011
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