Risk and uncertainty, generated where and when physical and social systems interface, now pervades and dominates the contemporary global landscape. A complex ecosystem of interdependent risk drivers including climate change but also environmental degradation, badly planned and managed urban development, displacement and migration, water and food stress, poverty and inequality translate into increasingly unpredictable outcomes for social and economic development and for the environment.

Unfortunately, risk management has become conceptually and institutionally separated from development, while exotic disciplines such as disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are ill equipped to manage the complexity of interdependent risk drivers and radical qualitative change. The dominant meta-narrative of risk as the impact of extreme, unexpected and exogenous events on normal development veils and obscures the pathways of risk causality and is ultimately contradictory: to protect the same development paradigm that generates the risk in the first place.

A two-fold paradigm shift is urgently required: to integrate existing fragmented approaches to risk management into an integrated and holistic framework, while at the same time transforming the focus from the exotic to the quotidian, from the corrective and reactive to the prospective and from protecting development against exogenous threats to managing risk as an internality inside sustainable and resilient development.