Heightened levels of public concern about the management of risks in the late 1990s
The cumulative impact of several crises, the speed of technological change, and an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters gave the impression that society was losing control over a number of risks. This anxiety compounded concerns over the difficulties facing governments and regulators involved in risk governance, and increased public expectation for effective risk management. The knowledge community was also encountering difficulties in meeting the demands for factual certainty and in communicating knowledge, as well as uncertainty, to the decision-making community.
Establishment under the auspices of the Swiss State Secretariat for Education & Research
In 2003, the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research therefore recommended to the Swiss Parliament that the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) be established as an independent and international body to bridge increasing gaps between science, technological development, decision-makers and the public. The organisation would act as the catalyst for improvements in the design and implementation of effective risk governance strategies. In June 2003, IRGC was formally founded in Geneva as a private foundation under Article 80ff of the Swiss Civil Code, with Prof. Wolfgang Kröger as founding director.
From 2003 – 2012, the State Secretariat, led by Dr. Charles Kleiber (chairman of the Board of IRGC 2010 – 2012), financially supported IRGC as a multi-stakeholder and neutral convening platform for policy makers, scientists and the private sector to discuss the challenges of risk governance.
Move to EPFL: On the pulse of world class scientific research and technology
In June 2012, the IRGC secretariat moved its offices from Geneva to the campus of the École Polytechnique Fédérale (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland. This strengthened collaboration with academia allowed IRGC to expand its academic network and to further develop its science-based approach by closely working together with scientific experts.
Our relevance today: Governing emerging and neglected risks in an interconnected world
More recent events confirm that the issue of risk governance remains of the utmost importance. Losses, both in human lives and economic value, continue to increase in the face of natural disasters, outbreak of new viruses, or as consequences of the fragility of critical infrastructures. Global risks also derive from concerns about developing sustainable sources of energy and from the impacts of climate change. All such risks have rippling effects and secondary impacts that far exceed the capacity of individual governments to manage them. This reinforces the need for an organisation such as IRGC to develop governance strategies with global validity.