The Lancet calls for the creation of a world institute for risk evaluation

01/12/05

NB Please note if you are outside North America the embargo for LANCET press material is 0001hrs UK time 14 January 2005

This release is also available in German.

A commentary in this week's issue of THE LANCET is calling for the creation of a new organisation to measure and prioritise all major global threats to human survival.

As world leaders backed the proposal for an earthquake early warning system for the Indian Ocean in Jakarta last week, a unique opportunity to create a broader mechanism to determine human risks has arisen.

Gaining a total picture of the risks facing populations, be that economic, geopolitical, societal or environmental, will allow governments to formulate domestic and foreign policies. But there is currently no existing institution that can deliver this approach.

The UN has no single technical agency devoted to global risk assessment. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, G8, and World Trade Organisation are all inappropriate repositories for impartial analysis of global threats.

Independent foundations may offer more neutral forums for risk judgments but would still identify challenges from their own particular perspectives, producing solutions biased by their own specific ideologies.

Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, comments: "The power of independent technical evidence is consistently undervalued. What is needed is a World Institute for Risk Evaluation-- WIRE. This new institute would be an independent research-based agency, mandated to assess and adjudicate global risks. Evidence would be systematically gathered and peer-reviewed, risks would be quantified and prioritised, and issues would be targeted prospectively rather than responded to retrospectively. WIRE's work would take place in open forums. Its advisers would represent a wide range of disciplines."

"WIRE would not--it could not--make judgments about the economic benefits, political feasibility, or public acceptability of risk reduction strategies. WIRE would be a global risk monitor rather than a regulator. Regulation would remain a matter for elected governments. But WIRE would provide a view on what is known about a given risk, the likely size of that risk, the precision of such an estimate, areas of uncertainty that required resolution, and data supporting interventions to limit the effects of that risk. WIRE would set the global agenda on threats to human survival. It would aggregate the evidence and make its conclusions available to all."

This week's world report (p, 203) details the first-hand experiences of doctors and medical professionals working in the areas affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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