Risk communication is an important task of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). It is defined as a continuous and interactive process and characterised by a participatory dialogue with various stakeholders. Hence, risk communication extends far beyond providing information to all those concerned and to interested circles about the Institute’s assessment work and its findings. Providing timely information to the public at large about possible health risks, findings and work results is the basis for this dialogue.
Risk communication principles
In its risk communication activities, BfR upholds three principles in order to raise the confidence of all the stakeholders in the risk assessment process:
- Greatest possible openness
Goal of a participatory dialogue
The goal of a participatory dialogue is to establish whether there are differences in the perception, assessment and handling of risks amongst the various stakeholders and interest groups. Only when there is an awareness of the values and norms on which the individual risk assessments of the participants in the dialogue are based, can they be taken into account. A dialogue of this kind may end in consensus or dissent about assessments and management options. Nevertheless, each dialogue provides valuable insight for risk managers and the decisions they take.
The stakeholders of BfR and, by extension, its risk communication are wide-ranging. They include
- federal government and federal state ministries, agencies on the municipal, regional and federal levels
- consumer associations and their interest groups
- scientific institutions
- national and international agencies and organisations
- business community and trade associations
Besides the media, the consumer advice centres, Stiftung Warentest or the Information Service Consumer Protection, Food, Agriculture (aid) are important multipliers when it comes to providing the public at large with information.