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Response to the National Resilience Framework Implementation Update

On 4 December, the UK Government released its 2023 Implementation Update to the UK Government Resilience Framework, published in December last year. In our original response to the Framework, we commended it as a welcome first step, while also identifying six areas for further improvement. 

Overview


This update marks a significant step forward, and we’re pleased to see a number of important commitments that largely reflect our recommendations in December. We congratulate the Cabinet Office on the impressive progress in these areas, on the ongoing chronic risk identification and assessment programme, the National Cyber Strategy and Biological Security Strategy implementation work, and on the following initiatives: 


1. Exercising Programme and Lessons Digests

  • The restart of the National Exercising Programme and publication of Lessons Digests, which synthesise information from major emergencies and exercises. These lessons (volumes one, two, and three) are accompanied by webinars aimed at empowering and educating the resilience community, and follow exercises from earlier this year that simulated power outages and terrorist attacks. 


2. Catastrophic Impact Programme

  • The Catastrophic Impact Programme will clarify ownership of complex and catastrophic risks. To ensure accountability, the Programme will also work to sharpen the governance structures underpinning these responsibilities. It’s encouraging to hear that these efforts will extend across Government, also covering pandemic and emerging infectious disease scenarios.


3. Expert advisory programme

  • According to the update, Government will launch a ‘systematic expert advisory programme to ensure that the National Security Risk Assessment continues to be robust and well-informed as it transitions to a dynamic process’ (p. 16). This will help avoid groupthink and ensure that Government’s view of the risk landscape is informed by a wide pool of external experts.


4. Public survey

  • In 2024, Government will release the results of a survey assessing the public’s opinions on risk, resilience and preparedness. Using a representative sample of the UK population, the survey will gather information to inform how Government engages with individual citizens on these issues. We’ve advocated for a risk and resilience survey in the past, and are very pleased to learn about this initiative.


5. International action

  • The risks we face are mostly global in nature. The UK has shown leadership ambition here on issues related to risk and resilience, and UK ministers and officials continue to nurture multilateral collaboration via international partnerships and discussions. Recent initiatives include resilience-related work with NATO, the Five Eyes allies and the OECD High-Level Forum on Risk, as well as hosting the AI Safety Summit in November. 


Areas for further development


To build on this foundational work and help ensure both national and global resilience, we’ve identified five areas for further development: 


1. Stronger whole-of-government resilience

  • Implement further structural changes in the form of an overarching risk management framework based on the ‘three lines’ model, which would include a government Chief Risk Officer and a National Resilience Institute. This Institute would report to Parliament and be based on the model of the Climate Change Committee. The framework would overcome a siloed approach to risk management and facilitate cross-cutting budgets, capabilities and initiatives. The Institute would formalise the role of external experts in reviewing preparedness and be established by statute, thereby providing dedicated resources for resilience and a longer-term focus overall.

2. Leadership accountability

  • Implementing clearer leadership and ownership accountability for complex, cross-cutting risks. Enhanced whole-of-government resilience — particularly the appointment of a Chief Risk Officer — would help establish this. 


3. NSRA/NRR vulnerability assessment

  • Extending vulnerability assessments to the National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) and National Risk Register (NRR). This would entail extending the methodology currently applied to chronic risks to acute risks as well. Lessons from the exercising programme should contribute to these assessments.


4. Chronic risk assessment

  • Assessing chronic risks via a scoring system, registering those risks (together with those in the NSRA and NRR) over a longer timeframe and identifying gaps where further mitigation actions are needed.


5. A resilience vision

  • Amidst an increasingly volatile global backdrop, the UK needs to find and articulate a vision for resilience to achieve a step change in its preparations at every level of government. This would help reinforce its international leadership ambition in this area, inform its engagement with the public and inspire the greater household, local community, regional and national preparedness which whole-of-society resilience demands.



Overall, we're excited about the encouraging progress made in the past year — particularly the emphasis on prevention, clearer ownership accountability, exercising and international resilience efforts. There remains much work to be done  — we welcome the ongoing initiatives to reinforce the UK's resilience, and it’s vital that momentum and continuity are maintained as we head into a likely election year. We look forward to supporting this work however we can. 

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