Montesquieu Institute: from science to society

Crises, threat, but also an opportunity!

Monday, February 6 2012, 8:36

Are crises a threat or do they offer opportunities or both? At the star of the lecture a number o examples of crises were presented. They showed that crises have a number of causes: human actions, natural disasters, and epidemics, massive violations of human rights or failing technique. Crises seem to be small at first, but can evolve into huge problems. They can also change their character. Sometimes crises are limited to the territory of one state, but more often than not they expand beyond national borders. Crises are often the cause of new crises, sometimes with a different character.

Policy reactions to crises depend on many factors. Crises can be a threat to positions of politicians, political parties, cause panic and can be an attack on fundamental values, have an emotional component and are full of conflict. They often cause changes in policies which in their turn can change government structures.

Crisis management should be a one-stop process, but due to the multitude of actors involved, this is sometimes difficult to attain. In evaluations, meant to identify learning points, after the crisis, actors like to present their role as positive as possible. The evaluations are aimed at better understanding what the crisis really was and how to improve coordination and the use of expertise.

The present European crisis, which is the subject for the 2012 Montesquieu Masterclass, had its origin on another continent. It caused the banking crisis, the Euro crisis and painfully exposed the fact that some countries in the EU do not follow the financial policies that were agreed upon by the EU member states. It also showed that European leaders have difficulty to achieve proper and well-coordinated uniform policies. Solutions are presented, but unanimity is hard to achieve. Some politicians are pushing for a long time wish to have more central coordination form Brussels and use the crisis as a window of opportunity.

During the discussions in the lecture student talked about the cuaes of crises. The questions was raised how much is learned form evaluations, assuming that they take place. Famies are a regular issue, so one would expect that actors know by now how to prevent them and when they do occur manage them effectively. What has been learned form previous crises?

Which interests of which actors play a role? The role of politicians who follow their own interests, for instance they want to be re-elected and the interests of multi-national companies often play a role when crises are managed.

In spite of all this some positive remarks can be made. Crises teach actors how to deal with them and which measures to take to prevent them from reoccurring.