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NGOs weigh in on nanogovernance

Judy Conner here at Foresight brings our attention to a new 55-page report from International Risk Governance Council, based in Switzerland, titled Survey on Nanotechnology Governance: Volume D. The Role of NGOs (400K pdf).

Nine organizations are featured: five from the U.S. (CRN, Environmental Defense, Foresight, NRDC, and one I had not previously heard about, Sciencecorps), three from the U.K. (Demos, Forum for the Future, and Greenpeace UK), and one based in Canada (ETC Group).

Governance issues addressed by the various groups include: accountable public policy, equitable development, intellectual property rights, international trade, impacts of molecular manufacturing, non-proliferation, public engagement, sustainable development, and EHS (environmental, health and safety) concerns. Under international trade: “Foresight Nanotech Institute is investigating whether competitive advantage issues would lead firms to relocate to nations with less strict export controls so that approvals could be processed quicker and potentially in a more irresponsible manner.” (I think this is already happening — U.S. export controls sound like a pain to deal with.)

See also Volume A. The Role of Government and Volume B. The Role of Industry.

I’ll be at an IRGC meeting next month in Zurich chairing a workshop on NGO perspectives, not just on EHS (as is usually the case at risk meetings) but on the broader issues as well. So if you have perspectives to share on nanorisk/nanogovernance, now is a great time to let me know. Before Zurich I’ll be in Geneva and Moscow. If you have travel tips on Moscow, please send those along too. —Christine

2 Responses to “NGOs weigh in on nanogovernance”

  1. Phillip Huggan Says:

    I’m thinking one solution to a corporate MNT monopoly is to index the length of a patent inversely to industrial productivity gains. Right now patents last 20 years and productivity gains acrue at about 0.4% per month. So if MNT facilitates an economy where productivity gains increase 40% per month, drop the length of the patent a hundredfold down to 7 weeks long. That is probably too extreme but some sort of ratio could be used. The idea is to diffuse MNT products as quickly as possible and our present patent regime is just not up to task for servicing the type of non-linear growth MNT will facilitate.

  2. Steve Moniz Says:

    Suppose the IRGC recommendations are instituted, but they turn out to be inadequate. What’s your backup plan? We need to shore up one stakeholder that has been omitted. Most of the IRGC Survey (Part A) deals with the legislative and executive functions of making and enforcing regulations. They left out the judicial branch – and at a bad time. According to futurist Jim Dator, “…the relevance of elected legislatures is fading away while more and more governance is being taken over by judiciaries.” One recommendation from Part A is, “Strengthened capacity of legislative institutions to respond to emerging technologies”. Do you really think you can make a dent in the legislative process? Instead, concentrate on a more responsive institution, the judiciary. Dator continues, “…judges are very poorly prepared, by prior academic training, to be the futurists and philosophers they are increasingly required to be.” If educating our leaders is part of your program, don’t forget the judges.

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