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Decoding policy gamesYOGINDER K ALAGH
Is policy formulation a game?
It is not, but games, and game theory, can help provide insights into how stakeholders will behave in a given circumstance, and how they may react to changes in them.
The just-concluded Paris Climate talks saw an immense amount of preparatory work in most countries (not so much in India). Most of these followed the usual pattern, but one of them was particularly interesting, since it wasn't a meeting as such, but a game.
Actions and reactions
The Center for American Progress and the World Wildlife Fund, and amongst others the think tank CAN (whose president Neera Tanden is an influential commentator on India in US television), organised the Food Chain Reaction Game in Washington to simulate the consequences which would emerge as food security becomes a compelling requirement in the context of climate change. The use of a 'game' setting to discuss this issue was fascinating. Game theory is all about reactions of different players (stakeholders?) to assumed actions by other 'players'.
To simulate the 'game' is an interesting way of analysing the 'futures' or possibilities in an uncertain field. Conventionally, this would be done in voluminous academic tomes, at the end of which the uncertainty remains.
A game, on the other hand, forces the analysts to be specific to the extent possible in an uncertain world.
The context was set up by large countries such as India, China, Brazil, the US and the European Union, continental Africa, the Multilaterals and other groups including business and the media.
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