Global Agenda for Crisis Management

  • Michael Guo-BrennanEmail author
Living reference work entry


International Monetary Fund Global Financial Crisis Crisis Management Global Governance Mitigation Effort 
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The global agenda for crisis management represents issues not bound by national borders and refers to processes, procedures, and structures to effectively deal with a major event that threatens to disrupt or harm, either temporarily or permanently, an organization, its stakeholders, or the public at large and is of such a scale that it may exceed the capacity of a single nation-state or region.


Crisis management involves processes, procedures, and structures to effectively deal with a major event that threatens to disrupt or harm, either temporarily or permanently, an organization, its stakeholders, or the public at large. The global agenda includes items that are of a scale that they may exceed the capacity of a single nation-state or region or represent an issue that is not bound by national borders. The scope of such crises on the global agenda may be relatively short term or may represent long-term threats to regional or even global stability. The global agenda for crisis management therefore represents a global effort to manage major crises that exceed the capacity or scope of the affected region. This chapter discusses the key elements that make up the global agenda for crisis management.

A crisis can come in many forms including ecological, economic, humanitarian, military, or political. It can arise from natural disasters such as tsunamis or earthquakes or as the result of human action such as terrorism or other conflicts. A crisis can result from civil war or as the consequence of the lack of basic sanitation. Crises present multiple, cross-cutting challenges that can threaten regional stability and with increasing frequency global stability. They can be of two broad types: a short-time crisis with the immediate impact centralized in a local or regional geography or a larger, existential threat with global implications. While the immediate impact of a short-term crisis may be acutely felt in the localized area, the long-term implications of a major event can have extended repercussions worldwide. This suggests there should be a global response to such events.

A global response suggests the need for a global agenda for crisis management to properly respond to, recover from, and mitigate such threats. Such a global agenda would include potential threats that would require a response from multiple countries in multiple regions. It includes challenges that are so complex; they require a collective and integrated approach. The global agenda involves threats that may affect multiple regions at the same time. These threats will change over time and will impact different regions of the world in different ways. Management of such crises requires cooperation in global governance efforts. Several examples in recent history demonstrate the need for a continuing global agenda to manage crises with global implications.

On December 28, 2013, a 2-year-old child died of Ebola in Guinea. Patient zero as he is also referred was the first of what was to be over 11,000 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia as a result of the Ebola epidemic that spread through West Africa in 2014. This Ebola outbreak demonstrates the consequences when insufficient attention is paid to a potential global health crisis. In addition to the more than 11,000 deaths, the outbreak resulted in 28,638 infections and an estimated economic loss of US $2.2 billion in the three countries most directly impacted.

The virus went undetected for nearly 3 months due to insufficient capacity in the region to monitor such risks. Once the outbreak was realized, it went largely underestimated. The World Health Organization (WHO) along with the governments of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia expressed confidence the Ebola outbreak could be managed by local officials. It was not until the epidemic was spreading and out of control that the WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Once this declaration was made, resources worldwide were mobilized. Unfortunately, insufficient resources were committed to the crisis. This included a lack of personnel with proper training and experience, inadequate financial resources, a lack of understanding of the scope of the needed response, low community engagement, and poor coordination among participating nations. These failures likely resulted in the deaths of thousands of individuals who could have survived had a global response to managing this crisis been implemented earlier (High-level Panel on the Global Response to Health Crises 2016).

Technological developments along with globalization have led to a world that is increasingly connected and regions that are increasingly interdependent. The interdependence suggests that a major and sudden event in one region of the world can have significant implications for other regions in the world. The March 11, 2011, earthquake off the coast of Japan demonstrates this new interdependence. The earthquake was among the most powerful ever recorded, measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale. While the devastation from such an event could be catastrophic, it was minor compared to the effects that followed. The earthquake triggered a tsunami with 30 ft high waves which battered the coast of Japan leaving approximately 20,000 dead or missing. Within hours, the Japanese government declared a nuclear emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant due to the combined effects of the earthquake and tsunami which had cut electrical power to the plant and caused backup generators to fail. The government immediately ordered the evacuation of 60,000–70,000 people living near the plant. The lack of power led to overheating within the reactor cooling systems. Over the next several months, after at least three reactors at the plant experienced full meltdowns, thousands more were evacuated. Many expressed concerns about contaminated air, seawater, and debris from the earthquake. Much of the debris, taken by strong Pacific Ocean currents out into the ocean, began washing up on the shores of Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest in 2013. Although there are no reports of radioactive debris landing onshore yet, officials will continue to monitor the material as debris from the tsunami is expected to make landfall for years.

The repercussions of this disaster affected other regions around the world in other ways. The Fukushima Daiichi disaster led to dramatic changes in Japanese energy policy. These changes had substantial implications for other nations thousands of miles away. In May 2012, the Japanese government shut down all 54 of the nation’s nuclear reactors. Soon several other nations shut down similar reactors. Germany began shutting down nuclear reactors almost immediately and announced it will abandon nuclear energy altogether.

At the time of the earthquake, 31.2 % of the electricity supply in Japan came from nuclear power. The loss of this supply led to a dramatic increase in demand for fossil fuels, primarily natural gas. Since Japan imports nearly 100 % of its natural energy consumption, these increased demands have implications on the world energy market as well as domestic and international energy security (Hayashi and Hughes 2013). In 2012, Japan was the largest importer of liquefied natural gas, the second largest importer of coal behind China, and the third largest importer of oil (behind China and the USA). In addition, the damage to Japanese infrastructure meant dramatic decreases in production including exports to other countries. While the disruption in the supply chain was short lived, lasting only a few months, the combined economic impact of reduced exports and increased imports of fossil fuels led to a record Japanese trade deficit in 2012 of $78 billion (Ferris and Solís 2013). Although in the short term and long term, the health risks and environmental damage will be felt most acutely in Japan, the global economic impact of such a natural disaster, the cleanup associated with potentially contaminated debris, and the resulting impact on energy security require global attention and a place on the global crisis management agenda.

Widespread disease epidemics and the complications of natural disaster are not the only issues that deserve attention on the global agenda for crisis management. Many of these issues have both short- and long-term implications. Threats posed by non-state actors and the plight of refugees remain an important issue on the global agenda. While long-term mitigation efforts may belong equally on the political agenda, short-term response efforts often require global partners. Long-term concern for access to valuable natural resources including energy resources and potable water is another important area of concern. Sustainable development and issues related to poverty reduction also require global attention. Each of these issues will be discussed in the pages that follow. While these issues may not be seen as acute events that require a quick and immediate response, they do require global action to mitigate long-term and global consequences.

Global Governance and Developing the Global Agenda

Developing such an agenda requires cooperation from nation-states around the world along with international nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, local and regional governments, and organizations that will serve as first responders and will ultimately implement mitigation efforts. This suggests that global governance itself is key to crisis management on the global scale. Some believe there has been a failure in global governance to adequately address these issues (World Economic Forum 2015a). At present, there is no binding international convention outlining the rights and responsibilities of governments following a disaster. Few governments are prepared with policies, procedures, or the structures to facilitate international relief efforts. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is actively engaged in developing and promoting a framework for such efforts. In 2007, the IFRC and signatory states to the Geneva Conventions adopted guidelines for the “domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance” (IDRL Guidelines). A year later, the UN adopted three resolutions encouraging governments to adopt these guidelines. These efforts are critical in the coalescence of nations around a global agenda for crisis management.

A number of transnational organizations are actively engaged in such an agenda. In addition to the IFRC and the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) all place efforts to respond and manage global crises high in organizational priorities. The question remains whether these organizations have the capacity to develop cohesive structures for global governance in response to global crisis. They must work collectively with national and subnational partners to respond when crisis occurs and to mitigate disasters and other crises before they occur. Accomplishing these goals includes identifying areas of concern and lifting them to a place on the global agenda. This requires a singular global agenda and a cooperative and unified effort to identify and address issues and the capacity to manage such crises.

Recent crises that are generally agreed to be part of the global agenda and therefore require a global response include the global economic and financial crisis of 2008, the threat of violence posed by non-state actors against governments and religious and ethnic groups around the world, the ongoing effort to respond to climate change, and the spread of disease such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa or the 2016 Zika virus outbreak.

Financial Stability

As economies develop and nations become interlinked for economic development and success, global financial stability is of increasing importance on the global agenda. Two international organizations, the Group of Twenty (G20) and the IMF, are actively engaged in managing potential threats to the global financial system. The G20, an organization that includes 19 major economies along with the European Union, is an important player in lifting global financial concerns to the global agenda for crisis management. The G20 represents about two thirds of the worlds’ population, 85 % of world GDP, and greater than 75 % of worldwide trade. As the connectedness between economies grows, organizations such as the G20 become increasingly important, particularly in the event of a major global economic crisis.

Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of the global implications of a crisis and the need for a global agenda to respond to such crises was the worldwide financial crisis which began in 2007. Years of growth, including record homeownership in the USA that resulted from deregulation in the mortgage industry, led to dramatic rises in housing costs. The trajectory of growth was unsustainable and in late 2007, housing prices collapsed. This impacted the American financial system immediately, but soon spread to markets around the world. In addition to major elements of the American financial system failing, the American auto industry nearly ceased to exist. Stock exchanges around the globe saw huge losses, including the Dow Jones Industrial Average which lost 33.8 % of its value in 2008. Unlike the immediate need for recovery after a natural disaster or violence by non-state actors, the damage caused by the global financial crisis evolved over time, had long-term implications, and continued to expand.

By the end of 2008, the USA, Germany, Japan, China, and a number of smaller countries were in recession. A variety of factors contributed to these losses, all stemming from the new global interconnectedness of today’s economies. Foreign investment in American real estate led to dramatic losses and recession in countries throughout Europe. Worldwide recession reduced demands for exports from Japan, China, and other developing economies which drove these nations deeper into recession.

The G20 member nations met in November 2008 to develop a response to the failing global financial system. Their first goal was to stabilize global financial markets through increased IMF funding to support the most affected countries. The organization also promoted macroeconomic stimulus programs and a strengthening of regulatory and supervisory systems. While each of the individual governments also implemented reforms, the ability of the G20 to respond to this crisis from a global perspective demonstrates the importance of maintaining systems and structures capable of addressing the global agenda.

In addition to efforts by the G20, the IMF responded to the global financial agenda and the global economic crisis by issuing a series of policy recommendations for member states in its Global Policy Agenda in 2012. In addition to making recommendations to stabilize the ongoing recovery and to mitigate future economic threats, the statement outlined the IMFs’ role in assisting nations in recovery and prevention efforts. Through an approach that recognizes there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, the IMF continues to develop programming that will aid in recovery in both developed and developing economies.

Civil War and Threats from Non-state Actors

The breakup of the former Soviet Union and the end to the Cold War were thought by many to usher in an era of sustained peace and reduced global tensions. However, in less than a decade, global tensions rose quickly with the spread of violence by non-state actors, highlighted by the attacks on American cities on September 11, 2001, and in similar attacks in the UK, Spain, Indonesia, and elsewhere in the immediate years that followed. These non-state actors use fear and violence against modern, open, post-industrialized societies as a means to promote either religious or political goals. In response to these threats that often originate from highly organized non-state actors, who use technology to spread their message and avoid detection, governments have established national institutions such as the American Department of Homeland Security. International efforts focus on governments working collectively to mitigate these threats. These organizations work collectively in the short term to respond following an attack and work to prevent future threats.

Each year, the World Economic Forum publishes a report identifying the most significant global risks to world order. The report considers a wide range of threats that are likely to become global crises in five categories including economic, environmental, societal, geopolitical, and technological. The 2015 report identifies 28 global risks that if not addressed may lead to significant negative consequences to several countries or whole industries within the next 10 years. Interstate conflict is the number one global risk for the third year in a row. Issues related to governance and the growing connection between geopolitics and economics also rank high on their global crisis agenda (World Economic Forum 2015b).

Today, it is estimated that more than 15 million refugees have fled their home country due to civil war and violence. This remains a global problem as refugees, primarily from war-torn nations in the Middle East and Africa, seek safe harbor primarily in Europe and North America. The ability to manage the refugee crisis requires global cooperation. Compounding this issue is fear from the citizenry from many host countries that non-state actors will pose as refugees to infiltrate host countries and spread violence and hatred. This has led to calls in some nations to end or reduce the intake of refugees. Humanitarian calls to manage the refugee crisis from the United Nations and several developed countries demonstrate the importance of this issue on the global agenda.

Long-Term Crisis Management

Many crises such as illness and epidemic, natural disasters, or the threats imposed by violent rogue actors require immediate action to recover and respond; others have more long-term implications. Although these crises may pose less of an acute threat, they are equally important issues on the global agenda. Many of these issues appear on the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development as well as the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2015 report and include issues related to sustainable use of resources, poverty, and climate change.

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is development that meets current needs without sacrificing the capacity to meet the needs of future generations. From a global agenda perspective, this involves several issues. Many of these issues have been captured by the United Nations which, on September 25, 2015, adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Outlined within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are 17 goals and 169 targets to be achieved by 2030 through collaborative partnerships with nations around the world. Areas of critical importance include people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership

Built on the Millennium Development Goals, the 17 sustainable development goals include:
  1. 1.

    Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere

  2. 2.

    Ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture

  3. 3.

    Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages

  4. 4.

    Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all

  5. 5.

    Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls

  6. 6.

    Ensuring available and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

  7. 7.

    Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all

  8. 8.

    Promoting sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all

  9. 9.

    Building resilient infrastructure and promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization to foster innovation

  10. 10.

    Reducing inequality within and among countries

  11. 11.

    Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable

  12. 12.

    Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns

  13. 13.

    Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  14. 14.

    Conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development

  15. 15.

    Protecting, restoring, and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managing forests, combating desertification, and halting and reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss

  16. 16.

    Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels

  17. 17.

    Strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development


By raising these issues to the global agenda, the United Nations seeks to build cooperation between all governments and nongovernmental organizations as a means to mitigate the threat they pose to the people and the planet (United Nations General Assembly 2015).

Global Climate Change

The potential threat posed by climate change and the impact rising sea levels and changing weather patterns may have on mankind have placed managing these issues among the most important on the global crisis agenda. A changing climate will have global financial consequences and dramatically impact efforts toward sustainable development. The very nature of the climate change crisis presumes its effects will be widespread, not limited to specific geographical regions or particular economic classes. No nation is immune, and no individual is capable of avoiding the effects of climate change. Efforts by a single nation, even one as powerful and influential as the USA, will have little impact on the global climate. As a global crisis, it requires a global response. In 1988, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) created the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in an effort to investigate and report scientific evidence on climate change and the potential global implications as well as a potential international response to this crisis. Since then, numerous international conventions have been held to address climate change and develop policies to manage the crisis.

Among the first efforts was the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed by 166 countries at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Although the UNFCCC did not contain specific national or international targets to reduce emissions, it did establish foundational principles that have served future agreements. Emissions’ targets for developed countries were first approved at the 1997 Conference of Parties meeting in Kyoto, Japan. This marked the beginning of efforts to manage the crisis of climate change globally through legally binding commitments to reduce emissions. It also established market-based international emissions trading. Unfortunately, several countries, including the USA and Canada, either chose not to ratify the treaty or withdrew largely over concerns that non-developed countries are exempt from the treaty including China and India.

Despite these concerns and an apparent inability to bridge the gap between developed and underdeveloped nations, the crisis of climate change remains high on the global agenda. The latest round of negotiations concluded in December of 2015. In a demonstration of the importance of the global agenda and the need to manage the crisis of climate change, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris reached a series of binding agreements on mitigating the potential threat posed by climate change. A key element of this agreement is the removal of the distinction between developed and developing countries, a critical source of frustration from the legislatures of developed countries. If ratified, all nations will be required to report efforts to reduce emissions and agree to an international review.

Global Crisis Response and Management

A number of multinational organizations have as a mission to respond to acute crisis as well as long-term recovery and mitigation efforts. Since the adoption of the IDRL Guidelines by the IFRC in 2007, 23 nations have implemented new laws, rules, or procedures, and numerous international and regional organizations including the European Union, the African Union, the Organization of American States, and the Organization of Southeast Asian Nations made changes to policies, procedures, or structures to strengthen international crisis response cooperation based on the IDRL Guidelines. The IFRC has also signed memorandums of understanding (MOU) with several organizations to promote cooperation and support for the global agenda for managing crisis including the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the World Customs Association.

The global financial crisis of 2008 continues to be an important issue on the global agenda. In response, the IMF publishes The Managing Directors Global Policy Agenda. The latest edition, published in April of 2016, notes that while the global economy continues to experience moderate growth, it has weakened in recent months by persistent slow growth. Threats to a full recovery include persistent high unemployment; high debt; low public investment, particularly in advanced economies; and the uncertainties related to geopolitical conflicts, non-state actor violence, and the inflow of refugees and uncertainty in the future of the European Union. To reverse this trend and secure a sustained recovery, the report suggests stable oil prices, greater action by central banks, and growth in demand for durable goods are needed (International Monetary Fund 2016).

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is also deeply involved in global crisis response and management. NATO is a political alliance created to safeguard the freedom and security of member states through both political and military means. In addition, NATO often partners with nonmember nation-states in times of crisis to ensure security and safety for those providing response and recovery services in the affected region. NATO has significant crisis management capacity and has the ability to plan and conduct large-scale multinational crisis management operations. It has the ability to mobilize large forces in short notice and to partner with political, civilian, and military groups to train and conduct operations to meet mission-specific goals. It is equipped to respond to military, political, or humanitarian emergencies that result from natural or man-made disasters.

NATO is also an important actor in the global crisis management agenda. Since the 1950s it has engaged in natural disaster response and recovery efforts. In recent years, the organization has broadened its approach to crisis response. It now actively engages nonmember states to respond, recover, and mitigate crisis. Through a comprehensive approach to the global agenda, NATO emphasizes training; support for local actors, both military and civilian; planning; and greater coordination between NATO forces and partners to coordinate crisis management efforts. NATO established the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) in 1998, along with the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Unit to coordinate assistance and to deploy resources to affected member or partner states.


Moving forward with a global agenda for crisis management will require continued diligence to sustain support for response, recovery, and mitigation efforts among the governments of the world as well as nongovernmental organizations. To accomplish these ends, cohesive structures that support global governance efforts related to crisis management are necessary. Cooperative response in the immediate hours and days following a major crisis will likely remain strong and positive. Differing priorities and geopolitical agendas may make sustained mitigation efforts challenging. In addition, a recent report published by HERE-Geneva found that roles and responsibilities to an international disaster remain unclear (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2015). Breakdowns in communication across governments during international response efforts are also a noted concern (Palttala et al. 2012).

The need for cooperation is well recognized; however, these persistent challenges make long-term cooperation for a sustained agenda difficult. For example, while the G20 response to the 2008 global financial crisis was generally thought to be successful, ongoing reforms to mitigate future global financial crises suffer from inconsistent implementation at the national level, conflicts among member nations, and inadequate international regulatory systems (Szczepański and Bassot 2015).

The triad of threats posed by climate change includes not only changing weather patterns but also dramatic implications for the global economy and efforts toward sustainable development. These issues are compounded by crises such as the 2007 global financial crisis and continued recovery efforts today. Issues such as these along with the potential crisis of a pandemic and the threats posed by civil war and the resultant refugees and violence caused by non-state actors belong on the global agenda. Organizations such as the IMF, the World Economic Forum, and the United Nations must continue to build consensus around policies and practices related to managing global crisis. Working collectively with these organizations, the IFRC, NATO, and other support groups will continue to lead coordinated response and recovery efforts.



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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Troy UniversityTroyUSA