WEF to launch risk network to counter threats

DAVOS, Switzerland Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:29pm EST

A member of Swiss special police forces stands on the roof of a hotel in Davos January 25, 2011. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

A member of Swiss special police forces stands on the roof of a hotel in Davos January 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann

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DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - The World Economic Forum is launching a network to help companies, governments and international organizations better deal with a complex web of risks facing the world from food security to financial meltdown.

Kevin Steinberg, chief operating officer for the WEF in the United States will launch the Risk Response Network on Wednesday at the start of the annual meeting in the Swiss resort of Davos that brings together top executives, politicians and academics.

"Over the past several years, the world has been very reactive. If you look at the number of crises that have hit from financial to social to economic ones, almost everybody has felt they've been trying to avoid falling off the cliff," Steinberg told Reuters on Tuesday.

"One of the moods we're starting to see here in Davos is the sense we need to be more proactive. We need to think about risk not only in terms of responding to events after the fact but structuring our thinking before, being prepared."

In the WEF's closely watched 2011 Global Risks report released earlier this month, the body warned the world was more vulnerable to shocks than it has been for the last 50 years.

It highlighted the risk of sovereign debt defaults, notably in the euro zone, as one of the biggest threats in 2011 as well as resource shortages and the risk of protectionism and currency wars as capital surges into booming emerging economies.

The network will establish a community of officials in companies, governments and international organizations who assess risk, aimed at better reacting to events and also mitigating future threats.

It will encompass the WEF's established councils of some 1,000 experts who already analyze themes ranging from financial risk to currency volatility and cybersecurity.

Finally, the project will involve WEF-led public-private partnerships that mobilize rapid response teams after disasters.

Delegates visiting Steinberg's Risk Response Network stand in Davos will be able to see threats like earthquakes, forest fires and tsunamis projected on a three-dimensional globe.

"The time is right for bringing together this concerted effort both because the global community is starting to be a bit more forward looking but also because ... many of these risks are tremendously complex," he said. "No part of society can address them alone."

"If we have the right people with the right insights provided with the right tools maybe they can be more impactful with what they do."

For full coverage, blogs and TV from Davos go to www.reuters.com/davos

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson, editing by Paul Taylor)

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