Prevention or Cure ? Risks Management

The objective of this event was to discuss about our modern way of integrating risks within our daily life and how to manage them: can we all predict and live our life accordingly? What about uncertainty and unpredictable events? Is resilience the key?

Virtual Place


Start: 17.12.2021
End: 17.12.2021


Local Association

This discussion between 3 experts (a Professor, a Research fellow & research assistant and a delegated administrator of IWEPS & Professor) aimed to explore the idea of resilience and the linked responsibilities (this event was anchored in the recent floods experienced by the city of Liège and its surrounding areas in July 2021, due to a large amount of short-term precipitation).

Sébastien Brunet (delegated administrator, IWEPS and Professor) and Jacques Teller (LEMA) : Professor (ULiège) Aline Thiry (Research Fellow and Research assistant – Uliège)

Sebastien Brunet (Professor, ULiège and General administrator, IWEPS) introduced the meeting in proposing a definition the concept of risk. It is defined as a “two feet” concept: a probability of occurrence of a harmful event (which requires calculation, data, etc.) – a hazard and to link this hazard with the system’s vulnerability. Risks is the product of both of these elements, i.e., hazard and vulnerability.

Data are socially constructed. Consequently, there are some impossible-to-measure risks, because we don’t know them yet. It is even more true, in a more and more unpredictable Anthropocene context (i.e., where human activities have caused a disruption of the natural balance of the planet). We have to observe a entire cycle, unless being only able to perceive part of it (see the “inductivist turquey” scenario).

Risks are socially constructed, one way of thinking about the future. This ability to predict and control the future is limited. We have to resort other tools, as prospectivism or creativity and thus, trying to enhance our risks’ approach.

Jaques Teller explained us the citizen consultation he made, at the request of the Walloon governement this summer 2021 (conducted with citizens affected by the July 2021 floods). This consultation work aimed to better understand how the events were concretely experienced. He highlighted some points, i.e.,

  • The low level of risks’ knowledge by every citizen (flood hazard map)
  • Vulnerability consciousness among citizens led to more appropriate behaviours (than citizens having handled this crisis it “as usual”).
  • Mechanisms of solidarity were strong (citizens mobilized very quickly and even before the public authorities had the means to act).
  • Climate change is evolving much faster than our ability to adapt to it. We must admit that we have to prepare ourselves to unpredictable events

We must develop some actions and a “culture of risks” (through the training of citizens, but also of local politicians on how (and when) to evacuate.

Aline Thiry has developed a three-point-reflection about contingency planning.

Firstly, The Royal Decree concerning the emergency planning is too narrowly thought and, in that sense, inadequate (new and innovative answers to novel emergency are needed). Contingency planning should be an ongoing process. Secondly, the current framework for crisis management has been designed in a “top down” logic, which is not favourable to a greater citizen involvement. Thirdly, the recovery stage is “invisible” within the process or, it is however a very important and time-consuming phase.


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