In the late 1990s: Heightened levels of public concern about the management of risks
With the cumulative impact of several crises, the speed of technological change and an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters, society’s perception was that policymakers were ‘losing control’ over a number of risks. This anxiety compounded concerns over the difficulties facing governments and regulators involved in risk management, and increased public expectation for more effectiveness. 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.
2003: the Swiss State Secretariat for Education & Research decides to establish IRGC
In 2003, the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) 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. IRGC was formally founded in Geneva as a private foundation under Article 80 ff. of the Swiss Civil Code, with Prof. Wolfgang Kröger as founding rector.
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. SER was joined by several other public and private organisations that shared the same concern, and conviction that many risks should be ‘governed’ (i.e. not simply ‘managed’ or ‘controlled’).
2012: IRGC is hosted by 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. Strengthened collaboration with academia allowed IRGC to further develop its science-based approach by closely working together with scientific experts, while also bringing the risk governance lens to academic research and education.
2016: EPFL establishes the International Risk Governance Center
2023: Governing emerging and neglected risks in an interconnected world
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 disaster risk, 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.
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