Risk Governance: Towards an integrative approach

International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) | 2005

This organisation has the mission to support governments, industry, NGOs and other organisations in their efforts to deal with major and global risks facing society and to foster public confidence in risk governance. It reflects different views and practices as well as provides independent, authoritative information. It improves the understanding and assessment of risk and the ambiguities involved, by exploring the future of global risk governance and by designing innovative governance strategies. This white paper is the first result.

The establishment of IRGC was the direct result of widespread concern within the public sector, the corporate world, academia, the media and society at large that the complexity and interdependence of an increasingly large number of risk issues was making it ever more difficult for risk managers to develop and implement adequate risk governance strategies.

Consequently, IRGC is committed to promote a multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral and multi-regional approach to risk governance.

This White Paper represents a fundamental step towards the achievement of the mission – the development of an integrated, holistic and structured approach, a framework, by which we can investigate risk issues and the governance processes and structures pertaining to them. Following on from this investigation the framework will also aid the development of recommendations that, when implemented, will support improvements in the ways risk is identified, assessed, managed, monitored and communicated.

Diversity of risk terminology

One of the remarkable findings in the report is the variety and diversity of definitions of the way risk is described and defined. In the report an overview of risk terminology is given in Appendix C, p. 147) by publication/organisation:

  • The chance of something happening that will have an impact upon objectives. It is measured in terms of consequences and likelihood. (Australia/New Zealand Risk Management Standard)
  • A function of the probability of an adverse health effect and the severity of that effect, consequential to a hazard(s) in food. (Codex Alimentarius)
  • Risk the chance that a given hazardous effect will occur. (European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC))
  • Expected losses (of lives, persons injured, property damaged and economic activity disrupted) due to a particular hazard for a given area and reference period. Based on mathematical calculations, risk is the product of hazard and vulnerability. (European Environment Agency)
  • The likelihood of the occurrence and the likely magnitude of the consequences of an adverse event to animal or human health in the importing country during a specified time period. (FAO Empres)
  • In a technical perspective, risk refers to two variables – the probability of occurrence of a specific instance of damage and the extent of that damage. The social science perspective focuses on aspects of societal and psychological risk experience and risk perception, while socio-economic approaches focus on risks to livelihood, security and the satisfaction of basic needs. (German Advisory Council on Global Change)
  • (1) A multi-attribute quantity expressing hazard, danger or chance of harmful or injurious consequences associated with actual or potential exposures. It relates to quantities such as the probability that specific deleterious consequences may arise and the magnitude and character of such consequences. (2.) The probability of a specific health effect occurring in a person or group as a result of exposure to radiation. (International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA))
  • The probability of an adverse effect in an organism, system or (sub) population caused under specified circumstances by exposure to an agent. (International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS))
  • The potential for realization of unwanted, adverse consequences to human life, health, property, or the environment; estimation of risk is usually based on the expected value of the conditional probability of the event occurring times the consequence of the event given that it has occurred. (Society for Risk Analysis (SRA))
  • The uncertainty of outcome, whether positive opportunity or negative threat, of actions and events. It is the combination of likelihood and impact, including perceived importance. (UK Cabinet Office)
  • The probability of harmful consequences, or expected losses (death, injuries, property, livelihoods, economic activity disrupted or environment damaged) resulting from the interactions between natural or human-induced hazards and vulnerable conditions. (UN Living)
  • The probability of a specific outcome, generally adverse, given a particular set of circumstances. (US Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
  • A probability of an adverse outcome, or a factor that raises this probability. (WHO World Organisation (WHO) on Health Report 2002)

Report: Risk Governance

Website International Risk Governance Council (IRGC)