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

logo_suisseIn 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

ecole_Polytechnique_Federale_de_Lausanne_logoIn 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.

From January 2016, IRGC collaborates with EPFL, with which it organises its activities. The new International Risk Governance Center will continue to develop IRGC’s heritage and activities, in line with IRGC’s original mission.

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.

Learn more about some of the methods and issues we work with.