The International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) is a non-profit and independent foundation whose purpose is to help improve the understanding and governance of systemic risks that have impacts on human health and safety, on the environment, on the economy and on society at large. Since June 2012, IRGC is hosted by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
The International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) is an independent non-profit organisation which aims to help improve the understanding and management of risks and opportunities by providing insight into systemic risks that have impacts on human health and safety, on the environment, on the economy and on society at large.
As a science-based think tank and neutral collaborative platform with multidisciplinary expertise, IRGC’s mission includes developing concepts of risk governance, anticipating major risk issues, and providing risk governance policy advice for key decision-makers.
Drawing upon international scientific knowledge form both the public and private sector, IRGC champions ignored, neglected and emerging issues and can help building bridges between science and policy in today’s challenging governance environment.
In this section, you can learn more about IRGC’s Mission & Purpose, about how we strategically approach work on risk governance, about our history, how IRGC is governed and organised as well as how we operate financially.
IRGC’s mission includes developing concepts of risk governance, anticipating major risk issues, and providing risk governance policy advice for key decision-makers.
To ensure the objectivity of its governance recommendations, IRGC draws upon international scientific knowledge and expertise from both the public and private sectors in order to develop fact-based risk governance recommendations for policy-makers.
IRGC operates as an independent think-tank with multidisciplinary expertise and can help bridge the gaps between science, technological development, policymakers and the public. IRGC acts as a catalyst for improvements in the design and implementation of risk governance strategies that can be effective in today’s challenging governance environment.
Our intention is to help decision-makers, particularly policy-makers to anticipate and understand emerging risks, as well as the risk governance options, before they become urgent policy priorities. Our strategy is proactive. We identify issues with risk governance deficits and develop recommendations for improving their assessment, evaluation, communication and management.
Our core process
- Identifying potential risk issues at the earliest possible stage
- Understanding the issue and the associated risks as well as the institutions and risk governance structures and processes that are currently in place for assessing and managing the risks
- Identifying governance gaps which appear to hinder the efficacy of the existing risk governance structures and processes
- Making recommendations for overcoming these gaps
Within its mission to improve global risk governance, IRGC is rooted in the principles of good governance and is:
- Open: project outcome is shared freely
- Accountable: science-based project work and recommendations are scrutinised via peer review before publication
- Collaborative: this lies at the heart of our approach and integrated working is vital
- Independent: this allows us to freely choose the subjects on which to focus, select experts and partner organisations with whom to collaborate, and design the appropriate governance recommendations to deal with the risks we address
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. The foundation formally signed a collaboration agreement with the school that took effect on January 1st 2013, and committed EPFL to continue the financial support previously provided by the Swiss government. This strengthened collaboration with academia allows IRGC to expand its academic network and to further develop its science-based approach by closely working together with scientific experts.
United Nations ECOSOC and SDSN: International recognition and expansion of network
In July 2012, IRGC was granted special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This enables IRGC to actively engage with ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, as well as with the United Nations Secretariat, programmes, funds and agencies, including opportunities to consult with Member States and the UN system at large. Consultative status also enables ECOSOC bodies to seek expert information or advice from IRGC on a subject matter relevant to IRGC’s work.
In July 2014, IRGC became a member of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations open to universities, research institutions, foundations, civil society, and other organizations with deep expertise in one or more areas related to sustainable development. Membership allows IRGC to gain visibility through broader stakeholder outreach as well as access to project collaboration opportunities and to advance an agenda focusing on governance deficits and risks that are often ignored or neglected in the transition towards sustainability.
Our relevance today: Managing 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.