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ERM Forum keynote speaker in plea for greater co-operation

Professor Jeremy Farrar OBE
Professor Jeremy Farrar OBE

International co-operation is on the decline, posing unnecessary risk and uncertainty for countries and companies, according to the keynote speaker at next month's Airmic ERM Forum. Professor Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, says the change is making it more difficult to get to grips with threats such as terrorism, global warming and pandemics.

At a time when the world needs to break down silos between different countries, he says, things are moving in the opposite direction. President Trump's decision to impose trade barriers is both a high-profile symptom of the nationalism that is increasingly making co-operation difficult and something that is likely to accelerate the trend.

"Trade wars create barriers," he says, "and there are knock-on effects. Nations are becoming more insular, and this is making it more difficult to share information."

His own special interest is pandemics, an area where he is well placed to comment as he was previously a Professor of Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford. He says the atmosphere is already hampering efforts to share information about 'flu strains, among other things, and so develop suitable vaccines to protect the population every winter. The 'flu pandemic in 2009 was eased by the fact that it was a relatively mild strain, but a more severe pandemic could have devastating effects.

The same principles apply also to diseases such as SARS and Bird 'flu and to other types of risk, such as terrorism, migration, cyber and global warming. Meanwhile Brexit rumbles on and, while the outcome is as yet undecided, it is threatening to reduce the amount of co-operation between the UK and EU states in many areas including security and medical research.

"Risk managers understand that the sharing of information is vital if they are to appreciate the full range of risk and vulnerabilities," he says. "My broad message [at the ERM conference] will be that we live in obviously uncertain times when the world faces many challenges. The new atmosphere is having an impact on the economy, on trade and on travel. It is undermining trust, which is so important if we are to co-operate fully."

While November's Forum will concentrate mostly on technical risk management issues, an appreciation of the wider context is an essential ingredient of any enterprise risk strategy, and Professor Farrar's address promises to give plenty of food for thought.

The Wellcome Trust, one of the largest global charities, exists to improve health for everyone and supports a wide range of researchers and scientists.

There is still a handful of places left at the ERM Forum, which is free to members. Book here if you would like to enrol.

The ERM Forum programme