The word ‘risk communication’ is a relatively new concept in the field of risk management. It has emerged and drawn attention since late 1970s or early 1980s. It is defined as: ‘Risk communication is an interactive process of exchange of information and opinion among individuals, groups, and institutions. It involves multiple messages about the nature of risk and other messages, not strictly about risk, that express concerns, opinions, reactions to risk messages or to legal and institutional arrangements to risk management’ (National Research Council, 1989).
At the very beginning when the concept of risk communication was proposed, it might have been thought of as a tool for communicating the results of scientific risk assessments to lay persons. However, there can be an inherent flaw in this assumption as risk experts are sometimes wrong in the sense that they usually underestimate risks.
Risk communication is a trust-building process in the ideal sense and in the practical sense. It requires disclosure of communication among interested parties in democratic societies and it really works as a kind of ‘insurance’ for the future as well.
To make risk communication successful, two crucial factors, that is, disclosure of information and transparency, should be guaranteed in the decision-making process. Firstly, by disclosing all information regarding risks to the public, it would increase the probability of finding risks themselves or flaws in management approaches. Secondly, the whole process of decision-making is recorded and opened to the public, we can review the process and take alternative decisions when it becomes clear that the first decision proved to be wrong.
It is desirable for us to have better methods for dealing with conflicts, if possible, through risk communication.