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Foresight: Early Warning & Preventive Policy

Everyone agrees that prevention is usually better than cure. Yet, the conditions for effective warning and preventive action are not well-understood. This is particularly the case in areas where harm arises from new or complex phenomena or is difficult to forecast. Prevention is an old concept in many areas, such as defence, health or ecology. However, it took until the mid-1990s for states, international organisations and NGOs to declare preventive policy a priority. Over time, the concept has been increasingly applied to a broad range of risks that are not related to violent conflict.

The Foresight Research Group is primarily interested in studying the interplay between warnings and preventive action concerning violent conflict within states, genocide and mass atrocities. Besides this specific focus, the research group takes a general interest in the prevention of harmful phenomena more broadly understood, such as systemic financial crises, sudden or irreversible climate change, natural catastrophes, or pandemics.

Before becoming a research group, Foresight was a major research project, funded by a grant from the European Research Council (No 202022), which was completed in October 2011. Links to a summary of the project findings, key publications, and a list of past and current members of the Foresight team can be found in the menu on the left of this page.


Current Research and Activities

The research group works on further publications based on the data gathered by the Foresight project, but it also conducts new research. In particular, Chiara de Franco and Christoph Meyer have been engaged as Co-Chair and Co-ordinator in an expert task force which drafted a report on how the EU can improve its capacities for preventing genocide. The chapter relating to early warning and response drew heavily on the findings of the Foresight project. For the activities of the task-force please see the website of the Budapest Centre. In addition, Christoph Meyer and Florian Otto have conducted a series of knowledge exchange activities which aimed at engaging with practitioners to help those active in conflict early warning and response improve their performance and increase policy impact. Foresight’s knowledge exchange activities were funded by the King’s Policy Institute, the Department of European and International Studies and the School of Arts & Humanities.

Since January 2014 onwards, Christoph Meyer has been engaged in an EU PP7 project (INFOCORE) on the role of the news media in violent conflict, which includes their role as providers of open-source intelligence and as sources of warning. The project will also look at the role of NGOs in this area. It is envisaged that this project can help to better understand under what conditions both types of actors can improve the prospects for preventive or mitigating action by local, regional or international actors.

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