Risk governance

High Level Risk Forum


OECD Conference Centre, 8 - 9 December 2011


The OECD High Level Risk Forum is a venue for senior policy makers and executives from key industries to advance the international policy agenda for building resilience to large scale risks.


The Forum set forth principles and best practices in risk management for OECD Member countries. Its deliverables will contribute to the core goals of governments to provide safer and better lives, and help countries to take better advantage of globalisation by identifying strategies to reduce associated risks.




Summary of the meeting

This inaugural meeting gathered over 90 Delegates from 27 countries, including all G7 countries, the European Commission, as well as representatives from major global companies, the World Economic Forum and research institutions recognized in the field.


National Risk Assessments: Optimising capabilities to manage risks and build resilience


To adapt to the higher costs of catastrophic events, many countries have promoted a culture shift from disaster management based on response to a strategic approach that emphasizes a focus on prevention and mitigation to build societal and economic resilience.


This multi-faceted approach has begun in several countries by performing an “all-hazards” assessment of the full risk portfolio to target investments where they will yield their highest utility. Such National Risk Assessments have been developed by leading countries to fit this purpose. They involve an emergency planning tool that compares the relative likelihood and impacts of different reasonable worst case scenarios. This helps governments prioritize where to invest limited resources to buy down the risks associated with numerous possible events.


To the extent that response capabilities are already in place for certain major risks, governments can focus their efforts and investments in weaker areas. OECD can help countries implement the tool through sharing of best practice, establishing a whole of government perspective, creating partnership with the private sector to identify risk scenarios, validate risk analysis, and implement risk treatment plans.


Risk and Crisis communication; before, during and after an event


Governments need to "shape the communication space" during a crisis. This means providing consistent, credible and high quality information, and taking advantage of mobile internet and the social media. Governments contend with many other information sources, and must mobilize the opportunities of new technologies as was illustrated in examples from Japan, Korea and the United States.


A major challenge preceding any crisis, emergency or disaster is to increase risk awareness. What is needed here are proactive measures that push citizens and business into mitigation and prevention activities, influencing behaviours to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience. The key is to build partnerships with local communities, across levels of government, and to extend partnerships with the private sector.


There is great variance in the level of public transparency about risks, as countries have to reflect on the options available to face major threats, which include mass evacuation when early warning systems are available, as well as adaptation strategies when they are not.


Next steps


There is strong interest in refining the resilience agenda and building principles that will support policy coordination across capitals, strengthening the use of tools such as risk assessment and other preparedness measures. This effort will need to be coordinated with other fora. The OECD High Level Risk Forum will work over the period of three years to develop these principles, which will be built on thematic reports, as well as the country reviews and cross country studies.


Context of the meeting


The High Level Risk Forum acts as a catalyst for the exchange of applied knowledge and policy tools, as they relate both to managing risks at national level and also to transboundary risks. Countries learn from each other about what works and what does not, in terms of past successes and failures to monitor, prevent and contain significant disruptive events.


The world has become a "troubled village" with a number of recent events, the consequences of which can be felt immediately around the globe. The 2008 financial crisis, 2009 H1N1 pandemic, 1020 volcanic ash cloud over European air space and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan are examples of how risks can spread globally through interconnectivity.


Sudden increases in the prices of foods and basic supplies that triggered political unrest in the MENA region illustrate the risks of poorly understood and unexpected vulnerabilities. Some markets are so highly integrated that events in one type of system (financial, political, technological, natural) can create far reaching ripple effects in different systems.


At the same time, many countries are still coping with the aftermath of the 2008 global economic and financial crisis. The role of the State as a protector and lender of last resort is being questioned, with implications for the range of assets that can be protected and the degree of protection that countries can afford.


Not every risk can be prevented or avoided; governments and companies need to evaluate risks and distinguish those that are acceptable from those that should be mitigated or in some cases transferred. In a more interconnected world where disruptive events can have global implications, some of these decisions require international cooperation to formulate optimal strategies.


In addition, as this field is undergoing rapid policy development at national level in many countries, there is a call for policy makers to improve current models of governance.


More information

For more information please contact: and Sté



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