The Global Challenges Foundation isn't an organization I hear much about, though it focuses on global catastrophic risks and has worked alongside FHI to publish annual reports on GCRs.
The Foundation recently published "research overviews" focused on either GCRs or global governance, each of which was funded by a €10,000 grant. I'm linking to each overview here.
Save for two CSER researchers who wrote one of the overviews, these authors/institutions weren't familiar to me in the contact of GCR reduction, but I'd hope that strong research is coming from many different places and disciplines, even those that never interact with EA funding networks. If you have some familiarity with any of the topics involved, I'd be curious to hear your views on the quality of the work (or, given how long it would take to read any of these, how exciting/interesting the topic and framing seem to you).
List of overviews
The international governance of global catastrophic risks (GCRs) is fragmented and insufficient. This report provides an overview of the international governance arrangement for 8 different GCR hazards and two drivers. We find that there are clusters of dedicated regulation and action, including in nuclear warfare, climate change and pandemics, biological and chemical warfare. Despite these concentrations of governance their effectiveness if often questionable. For others, such as catastrophic uses of AI, asteroid impacts, solar geoengineering, unknown risks, super-volcanic eruptions, inequality and many areas of ecological collapse, the legal landscape is littered more with gaps than effective policy. We suggest the following steps to help advance the state of global GCR governance and fill the gaps:
- Work to identify instruments and policies that can address multiple risks and drivers in tandem;
- Closer research into the relationship between drivers and hazards to create a deeper understanding of our collective ‘civilizational boundaries’. This should include an understanding of tipping points and zones of uncertainty within each governance problem area;
- Exploration of the potential for ‘tail risk treaties’: agreements that swiftly ramp-up action in the face of early warning signals of catastrophic change (particularly for environmental GCRs);
- Closer examination on the coordination and conflict between different GCR governance areas. If there are areas where acting on one GCR could detrimentally impact another than a UN-system wide coordination body could be a useful resource.
- Further work on building the foresight and coordination capacities of the UN for GCRs.
The international community is underprepared for natural or man-made catastrophes. The recommendations above can ensure that international governance navigates the turbulent waters of the 21st century, without blindly sailing into the storm.
Weapons of mass destruction - the state of global governance among rising threats & emerging opportunities
The report examines the key strengths, weaknesses and gaps in current international norms and institutions of the world community around the threat of weapons of mass destruction and offers ideas for strengthening these mechanisms.
The threat of weapons of mass destruction has long been found to be more complex, while at the same time the standards of the world community regarding possession and use have weakened. This causes the report to point out contemporary times as crucial to this international security risk. It provides a number of recommendations in order to deal with the developments regarding global disaster risks from weapons of mass destruction. They include strengthening the current weapons control structures and increasing the degree of adaptation in the disarmament community to the increasingly interwoven threats of weapons of mass destruction.
For this, improved conditions for creativity, learning and bridge building between the stakeholders are needed. It strengthens leadership and provides new success stories of elimination and risk reduction, focusing on creating new areas for collaboration, and generally not being afraid to test new ideas.
The destructive Thirty Years’ War compelled European monarchs to establish a nation-state system at Westphalia in 1648. The globally devastating first and second world wars precipitated the creation of an international order designed to protect the sovereignty of nation-states against external aggression and decrease the likelihood of conflict. This is the world order we are still living in today. However, given the rapid rate of climate change and its likely implications for global security (hereafter referred to as “climate security”), the current world order will have to adapt – and adapt quickly. The difference between today and major global disruptions of the past is that though the risks are unprecedented, our foresight is unprecedented as well. Technological developments have given us climate models and predictive tools that enhance our ability to anticipate and mitigate complex risks.
This combination of unprecedented risks and unprecedented foresight lays the foundation for a Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent (R2P2) – a framework for managing the climate security risks. The framework is concerned with what we know about climate security risks, what gaps exist in governing these risks, and how to close this global governance gap. The main climate security governance gaps identified in this paper are:
- Gap 1: The Right Information. There is currently no standardized global hub for climate security information to inform coherent international policy actions to address climate security risks, and a lack of accepted future projections in a field dominated by forensic analysis.
- Gap 2: The Right People. Addressing climate security risks is hampered by a gap between climate change messengers and the security audiences needed to take actions to address climate security risks, as well as a lack of institutionalized leadership on the issue within the global security community.
- Gap 3: The Right Time. There are currently no global governance mechanisms for aligning international climate policy actions with international actions to address climate security risks.
To fill the global governance gaps, this paper proposes the establishment of an international R2P2 Climate Security Governance Framework made up of three institutional principles:
- Principle 1: Assessment & Anticipation. Standardized, aggregated and credible global climate security assessments, including climate security futures, aimed at aiding coherent international action.
- Principle 2: Elevation & Translation. Leadership by senior, globally-respected security practitioners who translate climate security information for global security decision-makers, and issue regular recommendations for international action.
- Principle 3: Coordination & Alignment. International climate security coordination mechanisms for aligning the policy windows of international climate change policy with international security policy as they related to climate security risks.
R2P2 builds from the Responsibility to Prepare Framework published in August 2017, a speech to the United Nations Security Council presenting that framework, and a forthcoming book on the subject. As a core part of its mission of anticipating, analyzing and addressing core systemic risks to security in the 21st century, the Council on Strategic Risks and its Center for Climate and Security is working to better understand what we know and what steps should be taken to absorb or lessen the security risks of climate change. This report, made possible by the generous support of the Global Challenges Foundation, contributes to that task.
This knowledge overview paper explores the implications of complexity thinking for governing global catastrophic risks (GCRs), in particular a new breed of super-complex GCRs. It offers a novel interrogation of why legacy governance structures are ‘not fit for purpose’ when it comes to responding to the complex drivers of GCRs. This assessment provides the basis for an exploration of systemic design principles which could serve as a compass for policymakers and other participants seeking to innovate upon existing governance configurations in the face of mounting global complexity and risk imperatives. This exercise suggests that establishing right relationship between overlapping complicated and complex domains is a necessary condition for any design criteria underpinning governance of a viable global civilisation.
The number and intensity of natural disasters is on the rise, while political violence remains at a very high level. Both phenomena often occur in the same areas, undermining human security and development, and causing considerable development setbacks. This report assesses the state of knowledge on the intersections between natural disasters and political violence based on a systematic and extensive review of the existing scientific literature. By doing so, it also identifies knowledge gaps to be addressed by future research.