Risk perceptions and risk management policies
Can societal risk perceptions find their way into decision-making and risk management, in the Republic of Cyprus? If yes, how? These are questions posed by this report. There is also an in-depth study on how to optimize risk decisions using societal risk perceptions as a starting point. For this reason, there are two distinct parts in this report, basically a quantitative one measuring risk perceptions on the island and a qualitative one probing into how politicians and experts/professionals perceive risk in general and risk management in particular. The survey used the psychometric paradigm of Paul Slovic and his associates as a conceptual basis, from its development, in the 80s, until today. The quantitative part of the study (measurement of risk perceptions and other risk parameters in the Republic of Cyprus) was conducted by distributing questionnaires, through the internet. A number of printed questionnaires were also distributed, in order to stratify the replies as to the number of men and women and also the population of the different districts of the Republic of Cyprus. A total of 784 citizens, 18 of age and above, reported, a number deemed as satisfactory as the target was approximately 400, in order to have a confidence interval of 95%. The results were analysed using SPSS 23 (Statistical Package for Social Sciences). A number of analyses were carried out, including frequencies, factor analysis for lessening parameters to analyse, regression analysis, correlation analysis and sample comparison of means. The analyses described in the previous paragraph led to certain conclusions, basically in line with similar analyses in other parts of the world. A more or less universal conclusion is that generally females have greater risk perceptions and fear that males when it comes to the assessment of risks. Another conclusion of more or less wide acceptance is the fact that senior citizens have lower risk perceptions and fear than the rest of the population. A positive strong correlation was found between risk perceptions and fear while a positive strong correlation was also found between risk perceptions and trust in competent authorities. The quantitative part also exhibits that risk perception and fear of different catastrophes, on the island, are very high compared to other parts of the world, where such studies have been conducted. At the same time, self-efficacy is spectacularly low, again compared with the rest of the world. Based on these results, politicians and professionals were called upon to provide solutions and develop methods on how to overcome these societal perceptions. The semi-structured interviews with fifteen active politicians in total, covered their views on the quantitative part of the research, the subject of public participation in risk related matters, the strengthening of societal resilience and prioritization of funding and other resources for coping with different disasters, either low probability-high consequence or high probability-low consequence. The final text was submitted to the interviewees for review. The focus-group discussion with 6 professionals touched upon matters relative to the quantitative survey, the conclusions from the interviews with politicians and finished with some insight into the risk management processes. After thorough coding and analytical memo writing, the following subjects emerged from the discussion: Risk management and policy frameworks, knowledge and comprehension of disaster risk and risk communication. All these are tangent to both risk perceptions and risk management in general. The final text was submitted to the focus-group professonals for review. The present is an all-inclusive study, starting from risk perceptions and ending in risk management governance, probing into contemporary ways of tackling risk problems, mainly based on the European (European Union) paradigm of doing things in the risk industry. It belongs to the family of applied research in the sense that it strives to tackle societal and policy issues. More specifically, Cyprus did not watch the progress made in the risk business during the last twenty or thirty years and, for this reason, the stakeholders in this business can be given a boost to bring Cyprus into the nucleus of the EU risk management processes.