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Thinking the Unthinkable: The Limits of Traditional Crisis Management and the Necessity for New Approaches Arjen Boin, Ph.D. School of Governance, Utrecht.

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Presentation on theme: "Thinking the Unthinkable: The Limits of Traditional Crisis Management and the Necessity for New Approaches Arjen Boin, Ph.D. School of Governance, Utrecht."— Presentation transcript:

1 Thinking the Unthinkable: The Limits of Traditional Crisis Management and the Necessity for New Approaches Arjen Boin, Ph.D. School of Governance, Utrecht University Public Administration Institute, Louisiana State University My name is Arjen Boin. I am at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge LA.

2 Outline Introduction Future Shocks and Transboundary Crises
The Challenges of Transboundary Crisis Management Implications for Institutional Design It is a great honor to be here. I want to thank the organizers for inviting me. A special thanks to professor Xue Lan, Haibo XX, Ping Xu. I am also happy to see so many familiar faces: Louise Comfort, Uriel Rosenthal. Today, I want to talk about the changing nature of crisis. We often hear that crises and disasters are getting worse. The damage is certainly worse. Academics 2think things are getting worse. I believe things are changing, getting worse in some ways, while some things are getting better. Today, I will explore how the future crises will look. In particular, I will look at a very special species: the transboundary crisis. I will describe what they look like. I will identify the coping challenges for government. And I will consider the lessons of crisis research, to see what we can do to prepare. This is preliminary research. I have been working on it with colleagues over the past years and I present you here with some initial insights. Only a few weeks ago, I had a unique opportunity to study one of these crises upclose: Hurricane Gustav came to town. I was present in the EOC and experienced the crisis as a citizen first hand. It is not the worst of crises, but the onsequences were dire enough to make me worry about the future.

3 The New World of Crisis Chernobyl, Kobe, Mad Cows, Canadian Ice Storms, Buenos Aires blackout, 9/11, SARS, Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, China Earthquake (2008); H1N1 flu epidemic; Financial crisis, BP oil spill, Icelandic Ash, Fukushima; EHEC We are facing what the American sociologist has termed “A new species of trouble”. The threat agents look familiar – natural forces, violence and technological failure – but the consequences will play out differently. Next slide. Now, let’s see what that means for governments and citizens. Let’s map out the challenges that our leaders face and see what crisis research can teach us. I will illustrate these challenges with a brief case study of Hurricane Gustav. I selected this case because I had the unique opportunity to spend time in the state’s EOC. In addition, I experienced this crisis as a citizen with a family, a rather unique experience for a researcher. I know Louise has had a similar experience with the California wildfires. It is a humbling experience. It is a good example of TB and I invite you to explore parallels with recent disasters you have witnessed or experiened yourself. Next slide 3

4 Defining Transboundary Crises
We speak of a transboundary crisis when the functioning of multiple, life-sustaining systems or critical infrastructures is acutely threatened and the causes of failure remain unclear. Let’s begin with a definition. Read definition. Note that the conventional elements of crisis are still here: threat, urgency and uncertainty (the old Rosenthal definition). What makes this crisis different: emphasis on tightly woven web of critical infrastructures that characterizes modern society. As we have become more dependent on these Cis, their failure now threatens life as we know it. Example: living for days without power or water simply has become unbearable for the modern citizen. These crises impose a lack of control over the simplest things that the modern citizen simply cannot accept.

5 Characteristics of TC Transboundary crises
Pose an urgent threat to core values, critical infrastructures Bring deep uncertainty: Causes are not clear, unpredictable trajectory Cross geographic and functional boundaries Challenge governmental structures: No ownership Generate periods of intense politicization Play up tensions between public and private Let’s dissect this new beast, transboundary crisis. The most important characteristic is its capacity to cross boundaries. This can be geographical, threatening multiple regions, cities or even countries. But a TB also jumps functional boundaries. For instance, it can cross from a financial system into an industrial system; from private to public, from one sector of industry to another. There is no, or at least not one, Ground Zero. An epidemic does all this. It is not clear how and why this happens. They escalate suddenly and in unforeseen directions. The SARS epidemic is a good example: its causes were ill understood, the epidemic suddenly jumped from a region to a city in a country across the world, and mysteriously lingered in that city, undermining the tourist trade for years to come. The geographical and functional spread of this beast creates the question who “owns” it and who must deal with it. This crisis brings various tensions to the fore: national vs international; central vs local; public vs private; state vs citizen (this can all happen in one crisis).

6 Increased Frequency: Driving Trends
Changing threat agents Increased societal vulnerability I have two categories of trends: New or changing threat agents. Rapidly changing societies that become more vulnerable to crises new and old. Let’s start with the vulnerability of societies.

7 Increased societal vulnerability
Growing complexities and interdependencies Heightened mobility Changing societal and political climate Urbanization Concentration of assets Clearly, societies are becoming increasingly linked with other societies. Globalization had made the world flat. But it is not just geographical, again it is also functional. Supply chains are global and change constantly. The internet penetrates everything we do. A fishing boat in the Mediterenean can pull a cable that paralyzes internet communications in the Far East for days. A Dutch kid can create a computer virus that attacks millions of PCs. Hackers can attack entire countries. In our just-in-time societies, people have very little patience for small glitches. A small electricity failure in a big city in Holland (a few hours is enough) will outrage customers. In fact, taking away their internet is enough! Politicians are sensitive to this and pay much attention to such glitches (even if there is nothing they can do about it). The resilience of Western citizens is decreasing rapidly; politicians do very little to reverse this trend. The growing economic disparity in capitalist societies undermines traditional resilience capacity. There are people who suffer more from a crisis than others, because of their economic position. The end result of many of these crises is more disparity. Finally, governments have not prepared to deal with the changing nature of crises. The events of 9/11 have fueled a shift towards prevention, away from resilience. Large resources are being devoted to making sure the next 9/11 or Katrina won’t happen. Preparing for the last war, as our colleague Lagadec reminds us, is not a good idea.

8 Changing Threat Agents
(Bio) Technology jumps New forms of terrorism Climate change Global power shifts The second trend is the changing nature of threat agents. There are many, but three stand out. We have seen an accelerating development of technology, which is now creating revolutionary possibilities to engineer and interfere with the human life as we know it. This will undoubtedly create threats that we cannot even imagine right now. We have seen the rise of suicide terrorism. We can be sure that terrorists will invent new and more destructive tools. Climate change is happening. There is no way to predict how it will impact us, but it will.

9 Paradoxes While public leaders can do less to prevent crises, they are increasingly held responsible. But they often do not know what to do (or what the public expects of them). Trends increase vulnerability of modern societies, while increasing crisis management capacity (more can be done than ever before). Deze kan worden overgeslagen!!! It’s good to pause here for a second and observe two paradoxes. First, these TC rarely fall within the domain of one agency or leader. At the same time, the public is increasingly inclined to assign responsibility. Fair or not. Reasonable arguments will not help. We should note a second paradox. Many of the trends just noted were either designed or have had the effect of enhancing governmental capacity. For instance, technological jumps have greatly increased the capacity to manaage crises. Consider hurricanes: surprises have been limited, communication has been improved, and response capacity (think of evacuation or massive staging of supplies) has been improved.

10 In Summary: Prevention is hard if not impossible
New forms of adversity are likely Failure is not an option (politically, socially and economically) Government is not geared towards dealing with transboundary crises What does that mean for crisis management? So, here is the situation: These crises will happen. We cannot prevent them, because they are inherent to the Western society. - The drivers or causes change, so it is hard to prepare for these events. As they are produced through and by man-made systems, it becomes impossible for government leaders to duck responsibility; in fact, modern citizens are quick to blame for these failures – whether it is reasonable or not. - governments and their complex bureaucracies are not designed to deal with these crises. Let’s explore these challenges in the context of a recent crisis, Hurricane Gustav.

11 Key analytical distinctions
Operational v. Strategic Routine Emergencies v. Unimaginable Crises Localized v. Transboundary Threats

12 Critical constraints The symbolic need for a command & control myth
The institutional vulnerability of modern mega-cities The culture of the risk society The politics of crisis management

13 Challenges for Strategic Crisis Management
Preparing in the face of indifference Making sense of crisis developments Managing large response networks Meaning making: What’s the story? Accountability: Restoring trust after crisis What does crisis research tell us about dealing with this type of events? Together with my colleagues Paul ‘t Hart, Bengt Sundelius and Eric Stern, we studied this question in a recent book entitled The Politics of CM. Leaders have to deal with five critical challenges (read them). I will discuss these challenges, and analyze how Louisiana leaders dealt with them. Again, I invite you to compare these experiences with other recent disasters, here on abroad.

14 Task 1: Preparing for Crisis
The costs of permanent preparedness Planning vs flexibility The politics of preparedness In preparing for crises, leaders face three important constraints: Crisis preparation is expensive. Permanent staff, training, planning and exercising for something that MAY happen takes away scarce resources from problems that are already happening (Crime, education, unemployment, better roads, defense etc). Planning for the unknown is very hard. It is hard enough to plan for things we know that will happen. But how do you plan for events that we have never thought about? The temptation is to prepare for events that have happened, but we know they are unlikely to happen again in that way. Crisis preparation is fraught with politics. It involves hard questions, such as who is protected against what, when and where? Who will pay for it? If I want to live in New Orleans, do US taxpayers have to help me when my house is blown away?

15 Task 2: Sense-making The crucial question: How to recognize a crisis?
Answer: It’s surprisingly hard.

16 Why sense-making is hard
We lack the knowledge and tools to understand, map, and track TBCs Information has to be shared across organizational, sectoral, and geographical boundaries Psychological factors limit individual and group capacity to recognize and grasp Black Swans Organizations: variable disjunction (CIA/FBI) and cognitive blinders (DHS) Social/political resistance: Major Sas, Y2K, global warming

17 Task 3: Managing large response networks
Working with limited information Making critical decisions in authority vacuum Communicating to a confused and distrustful public Coordinating across borders Once leaders have formed a picture of the situation, they have to take action. Much of crisis research cconcentrates on this phase, the response phase. This research has demonstrated how difficult it is to make critical decisions and coordinate large-scale networks. I have documented many lessons in my paper, so I won’t repeat them here. Let’s see how the Louisiana government reacted to this complex crisis.

18 Task 4: Meaning-making What’s the story? Reducing public and political uncertainty Bush after 9/11 v. Bush after Katrina Core claim: it’s not about the true story, it’s about the best communicated story It is hard to explain a TBC without undermining the legitimacy of complex, interdependent systems

19 Task 5: Crisis termination
Crisis: It ain’t over till it’s over (Katrina) Operational termination v. political closure Key lesson: political closure depends on accountability dynamics How to organize accountability across boundaries?

20 A Challenge of Design? Rise of transboundary crises
“Impossible” crisis management challenges Bounded bureaucracies: not designed to deal with crises, certainly not for the crises of the 21st century What needs to be done? Wrapping up….let’s summarize a few key lessons that we can derive from the crisis research literature.

21 Institutional Design Options
Building resilient societies Building transboundary crisis management capacity: Supranational Inter-agency

22 The Promise of Resilience
Resilience: the magical solution Modernization undermines and facilitates resilience Primary condition: trust (social capital)

23 Resilience: The Feasible Option
Rapid recombination of available resources by: Citizens First-line responders Operational leaders Requires reconceptualization of crisis leadership

24 Leadership for Resilience
Support and facilitate emerging resilience Organize outside forces Explain what is happening Initiate long-term reconstruction Bottom line: Immediate relief is not an option

25 Engineering resilience: A leadership responsibility
Basic response mechanisms in place* Training potential responders (how to think for themselves) Continuous exercising Planning as process Create mobile units media-style Prepare for long-term aftermath Create (international) expert network

26 Creating Dynamic Capacity
Shared cognition Surge capacity Networked coordination Formal boundary-spanning structures

27 1. Shared cognition Detection/surveillance systems Analytical capacity
Real-time communication Decision support systems

28 2. Transboundary Surge Capacity
Professional first responders (who can operate across boundaries) Supply chain management Fast-track procedures Integrated command center

29 3. Networked coordination
Shared language Known partners, mutual knowledge A culture of collaboration Mutual trust

30 National Incident Management System (NIMS)
Builds on successes of ICS (developed for and by the fire-fighting community) Offers a shared structure, professional language, way of working Built around defined authority relations, functional organization, modular approach Rapidly institutionalized across the US (Katrina v. Gustav)

31 NIMS: Fit for TBCs? Designed for local events, dealt with by local/regional response organizations ICS has not been systematically evaluated (effectiveness remains unproven) Military/uniformed character Unclear how ICS can be used during TBCs such as epidemics, terrorist attacks or financial crises

32 4. Formal boundary-spanning structures
Defining authority Rules for collaboration, sharing resources Rules and mechanisms for up and down-scaling Rules for initiation and termination

33 U.S. National Response Framework (2008)
Defines responsibilities, structures and procedures for large-scale disasters All hazards approach Strategic perspective

34 US Response: Structures and Principles
All disasters are local The state is the primary actor Feds can help, but only if the states want it NRF prescribes procedures for requesting help and scaling up Embrace of NIMS

35 NRF: Pros and Cons Concerted effort to define responsibilities
Formally sound Sound policy for training and practice But… All difficult problems are placed at the state level Not always clear who is in charge No attention for international dimension of TBC

36 What does the EU have available?
An unnoticed success story A wide variety of capacities (mechanisms, venues, agencies) Recent developments: The Solidarity Clause, Reorganization of Commission DGs (Internal Security, EEAS, strengthening of ECHO); Erasing of Internal-external divide

37 EU Advantages… Wide range of competences Strong on civilian capacities
Skilled at cooperation and coordination Trusted venues Single contact point Set to grow Wide range of competences -oversees everything from banking cooperation to communicable disease prevention efforts. -as demonstrated, many capacities Strong on Civilian Side -gamut of resources required to manage critical incidents, homeland security, from non-military perspective -competences and responsibilities run across society, and policy sectors 2. Skilled at cooperation and coordination -for all the negative current headlines, this organization has five decades of experience forging cooperation and fusing diverse national systems. -institutional tools for managing cooperation; neutral third parties, judicial arbitrators… 3. Trusted venue -does not carry the political or military baggage of NATO, which is currently in limbo. 4. Single contact point -transatlantic cooperation: both national and supranational cooperation will be critical 5. Set to grow -Actual crises, need to repair European image

38 EU Disadvantages… Incomplete, fragmented competences
Unclear political commitment; politics will affect CM Leadership is a ‘hot potato’ Communication is difficult; multiculturalism Incomplete Competences: functional and legal -hard to be strategic crisis management when not all tools at disposal… -hard to be operational when not sure when national responsibilities begin and supranational ones end -external vs. internal -fragmentation between sectors: EU a CM actor despite itself! 2. Unclear political commitment -objective argument in support of EU role is clear -heads of state not willing hand over everything -not even willing to publicize widely what EU is doing -consider blame game 3. Unspecified role: when should EU get involved, and how? In terms of operational/functional role -Which phase of crisis management? -what value added for EU? In terms of actor -coordination venue, or authoritative actor? EU can serve many purposes 4. Linkages Transatlantic -EU must be considered as partner in tackling security questions, simply because of the shift in thinking about what homeland security is and requires -EU on the way to providing Kissingers’ ‘phone number’ for Europe. Private sector -Difficult to get people to understand EU role; and it’s hard to get people to change mindsets about the private sector. -Hard security approach sees private industry as contractors; ignore other aspects; operate in 2 different worlds: national/global -And adapted approach to security sees private industry as both targets and partners; must be brought in to the discussion. -In Europe, this is particularly difficult because in some countries, frankly, cultures clash: business as seen in a negative light, often with conservative politics -EU can offer alternative cooperation venue than at national levels; a venue for bringing together business and public interest. This goes for the ‘third’ non-state partner: civil society organizations like red cross, doctors without frontiers, journalists

39 In summary: Future design challenges
More TBCs are likely Contemporary government structures are ill suited Needed: TBCM capacity & enhanced resilience Required: (Re)design of institutions

40 Thank you!

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