States face various types of risk – like pandemics, climate change and violent conflict. In a new NUPI project, researchers will examine what states do to handle risk.

‘We seek to understand how a range of non-state actors affect how states assess and go about dealing with risks. Some states have a large apparatus to handle this internally themselves, while others must rely on external actors. We will examine who these actors are and try to explain the variation in the ways states use and rely on non-state actors for handling various risks’, explains Research Director Ole-Jacob Sending (NUPI), who is in charge of the project.

Each year, the Research Council of Norway (RCN) distributes millions of Norwegian kroner under its independent project scheme (FRIPRO). The NUPI project The Market for Anarchy: Systems of Risk Control in Transnational Governance is one of 31 granted to be research funding out of 355 applications submitted to the Humanities and Social Sciences Committee (FRIHUMSAM) in the research project category last year.

Underlying interests

Much previous research has been based on the assumption that states undertake most of their risk management themselves.

‘We will analyse the agenda of relevant non-state actors and how they affect states’ risk management. Their agenda is often tied to market shares, since they operate in a market where they compete against other actors offering similar services’, Sending explains.

Security and transnational governance

‘Transnational governance refers to all forms of governance where both states and non-state actors are involved. KPMG and Exxon are examples of companies in the latter group, whereas International Crisis Group or Oxfam are examples of NGOs’, Sending notes, and continues:

‘You find a lot of this in areas like finance, development and health, but less in the hard security sphere, which has generally been controlled by states through alliances and organizations, like NATO. But there are signs of the growing importance of non-state actors also in the field of security, particularly in cyber security, where states are increasingly relying on private enterprises to assess and manage the threats and risks.’

Also read:

What determines how states act?

‘Studies of security and state behaviour often start with the assumption that the absence of a central overarching government in relations between states explains their actions – like which alliances they join, or how great powers balance each other. In this project, we take a different point of departure: namely, that states must manage a whole range of risks, and that how such risks are understood is often influenced by transnational networks of enterprises and NGOs.

The researchers behind the project aim to map the consequence of this.

‘Here we will explore whether the actors that deliver analyses and tools for risk management tend to promote certain assessments over others, in line with their own strengths and interests, not least so as to retain a niche in a competitive market.’

Read more about NUPI’s diplomacy and global governance research here.