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Precautionary principle and discursive strategies: classifying and managing risks

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The paper covers an integral risk concept consisting of a criteria-based risk evaluation, a novel proposal for risk classification and corresponding risk management strategies aimed at an analytic-deliberative approach in risk regulation. For this purpose, technical and scientific as well as social scientific concepts were integrated into a single conceptual framework. Eight criteria were selected for evaluating risks: probability of occurrence, extent of damage, incertitude, ubiquity, persistency, reversibility, delay effect and potential of mobilization. With respect to these criteria, six risk classes were formed in which risks may exceed thresholds determined by deliberative action. Effective and practicable management strategies were deduced for each risk class. The characterization and classification of risks provide a knowledge base for designing risk policies and class-specific management strategies. Three major management categories were identified: risk-based, precautionary and discursive strategies. In deliberative processes actors need to agree on norms and procedures to manage risks. If the results reflect the agreement of previous discourse procedures, political decisions become more legitimate. Because the risk evaluation, risk classification and management strategies are based on the concept of analytic-deliberative processes, the essential requirements for an effective and democratic risk policy are met.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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