Natural hazards and malicious attacks against critical infrastructure pose grave risks to societies and economies. Recent shock events – such as the Great East Japan Earthquake, Hurricane Harvey in the United States, the cyber-attacks on the Ukrainian electricity grid or the Genoa bridge collapse in Italy – show how disruptions to critical infrastructure and essential services can result in substantial economic damage as well as loss of life. The interconnectedness of supply chains and technological and financial systems in the global economy increase the exposure and vulnerability of critical infrastructure. When shocks and disruptions occur, their negative impacts can cut cross sectors and borders, and even resonate globally.

At the same time, the global increase in infrastructure investment and the digital transformation of infrastructure services provide opportunities to rethink critical infrastructure resilience. This report takes stock of the changing contexts for boosting resilience across OECD countries, and discusses the policy options and governance models that favour upfront investment in resilience.

Based on a cross-country survey, it analyses the progressive shift of critical infrastructure policies from asset protection to system resilience. Rather than focusing on asset protection alone, a system approach allows governments and infrastructure operators to address asset interdependencies and prioritise resilience measures for critical hubs and nodes whose failure would cause the most damage.

The report also includes a case study on Finland’s electricity supply that illustrates how governments can build partnerships with critical infrastructure operators to share information and set objectives, strengthening both trust and resilience.

Finally, a Policy Toolkit for Governance of Critical Infrastructure Resilience identifies important steps in designing an appropriate governance model for today’s critical infrastructure resilience challenges. This Toolkit complements the OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Critical Risks, contributes to international discussions in the G20 on quality infrastructure, and supports the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The Toolkit is designed to support governments’ efforts to renew critical infrastructure policies. Going forward, the OECD will work with governments to develop benchmark indicators and conduct case studies to compare progress and improve cross-country learning in this crucial area.

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