Priorities in Profile: Managing Risks in Developing Countries
The panoply of risk that envelops the everyday existence of those who dwell in the developing world threatens to eclipse the issues that command so much attention in more developed and more affluent societies. In the US and Canada, risk analysts engage in debates about whether an individual annual fatality rate of one per million marks a useful threshold for regulatory intervention, whether a de minimis standard might ward off over-response to insignificant hazards, whether mandatory air bags might produce further reductions in an already low rate of automobile fatalities, and whether one nation or another is accountable for the transborder consequences of acid rain. The recent ‘Risk Assessment Issue’ of Science (1987) runs the gamut from ranking potential human carcinogens to examining the safety goals of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); but six articles by expert risk assessors have little to say about risk in the developing world, which, in fact, may be bearing a disproportionate share of the burden. Meanwhile, the spiralling poverty-ridden populations of the developing world contend with the familiar scourges of human history: with natural disasters such as floods, droughts and earthquakes; with communicable diseases such as diarrhoea and malaria; with periodic famine and chronic undernutrition (UNEP, 1986).