Launch Report: “A Responsibility To Prepare: Governing in an Age of Unprecedented Risk and Unprecedented Foresight,” August 7, 2017
Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia, Sherri Goodman, Shiloh Fetzek, The Center for Climate and Security
Summary: The world in the 21st century is characterized by both unprecedented risks and unprecedented foresight. Climate change, population shifts and cyber-threats are rapidly increasing the scale and complexity of risks to international security, while technological developments are increasing our capacity to foresee those risks. This world of high consequence risks, which can be better modeled and anticipated than in the past, underscores a clear responsibility for the international community: A “Responsibility to Prepare.” This responsibility, which builds on hard-won lessons of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) framework for preventing and responding to mass atrocities, requires a reform of existing governance institutions to ensure that critical, nontraditional risks to international security, such as climate change, are anticipated, analyzed and addressed systematically, robustly and rapidly by intergovernmental security institutions and the security establishments of nations that participate in that system.
A Responsibility to Prepare agenda should be developed and adopted by all nations, while adhering to the overarching principle of “climate-proofing” security institutions at the international, regional and national levels. That climate-proofing would include routinizing, integrating, institutionalizing and elevating attention to climate and security issues at these bodies, as well as establishing rapid response mechanisms, and developing contingencies for potential unintended consequences.
Such an agenda – focused as it is on reforming security institutions – would ensure that critical nontraditional challenges, such as climate change, are appropriately managed as global security risks, rather than as niche concerns. A practical fulfillment of the goals and principles articulated in this Responsibility to Prepare framework would increase the likelihood of more stable governance in the face of rapid but foreseeable change.