A week ago, the United Kingdom voted for Brexit. ‘We are out’. The buzzword last week was ‘uncertainty’, coming from the mouths of thousands of politicians, citizens and business leaders. The last seven days it was by far the most mentioned issue, word, context with huge consequences for the market.
ISO defines risk as ‘the effect of uncertainty on objective’. Well, here we are. Risks affecting society – public risks – are about social and economic performance, professional and political reputation and issues as the natural environment, safety and societal outcomes. Managing public risks by our public leaders should effectively help society to perform well in an environment full of uncertainty. In the Brexit referendum there seemed to be no public risk management at all. No risk analysis, no scenario, no script, no precaution, no stewardship, no final responsibility, no guiding leadership.
The world of politics, which according Machiavelli is all about ‘power and influence’ now has become the uncertain factor itself. Politicians are actually elected to reduce uncertainty and set a stable stage, planning and acting for the governance of society. Should the role of politics after the Brexit be put in a new – less important – perspective, now to be incompetent in doing so by creating a general uncertain context were the outcome is not to predict in any way? Or is it clear that elected councils and governing councils are indeed more different than we assumed? In the – still United – Kingdom politics got deeply involved in their own party power discussions, leaving society on its own, loosing even more connection with their citizens and companies.
Lack of proper public risk management on such a large scale – felt by many as a irresponsible and populistic way of playing with goods, properties, capital and welfare of others – is in my view an unique moment in history. It proofs once more that an holistic approach of public risk management – where politics is just a part of the bigger play – is the new way of forward thinking. Politics from now on is one of the factors of the system. Or should we give it some time and see what actually is happening. Here we may find the philosophy of Alexander von Humboldt – zooming out leads to be better insights in system connections and capabilities – on our side. And of course the lessons of Charles Darwin – survival of the fittest – are more actual than before: the system will be inhabited by the fittest, the one who is most capable of adapting change. We’ll see what new leadership comes out of the quarrelling political world in the UK. Citizens and companies will probably have the key for solutions, now politics is ‘lost in translation’.
The path which PRIMO has chosen 10 years ago in the meetings in Strasbourg (April 2005), Copenhagen (November 2005), Dublin (2006) and Brussels (2007) feels right more than ever. The Brexit approach by UK politics implicates that there is a lot of work to do in developing a far more advanced public risk management than we have now, one where politics will be embedded as one of the (uncertain) factors for good public governance. It has lost in one night their dominating and leading role. It is in fact not acceptable that politics itself is creating so many uncertainties and is on the brink of causing a flood of public risks. That is where our democratic systems was not meant for. Accidents happen though.
From now on politics itself needs to be managed and handled more firmly with care (and cure) by its own citizens and companies, this in the light of steering towards a balanced society, reliable and secure governance, responsibility in high dynamics and focused financial engineering. The referendum was and is expected to be historical in many ways. For our association PRIMO (Europe) the context of the Brexit forms the basis for a new challenge in the years ahead and is the underlining of the importance our Pan-European focus.
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