United Nations University: PhD Position | Institute for Environment and Human Security

For the past four decades, UNU has been a go-to think tank for impartial research on the pressing global problems of human survival, conflict prevention, development, and welfare. With more than 400 researchers in 13 countries, UNU’s work spans the full breadth of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, generating policy-relevant knowledge to effect positive global change. UNU maintains more than 200 collaborations with UN agencies and leading universities and research institutions across the globe.

United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)

UNU-EHS, established in December 2003, is part of the UNU system, a worldwide network of research and training institutes. Its mission is to advance human security through knowledge-based approaches to reducing vulnerability and environmental risks. For more information, please visit www.ehs.unu.edu.

Environmental Vulnerability & Ecosystem Services (EVES) section

The EVES section at UNU-EHS conducts original, policy relevant research addressing the vulnerability and resilience of social-ecological systems. Specifically, EVES aims to understand how social ecological systems are affected by environmental hazards of diverse nature such as water and land degradation, floods, droughts, and other hazards. EVES not only considers the impacts of single hazards, but also investigates multiple hazard situations, identifying cumulating or cascading impacts and feedbacks between hazards of contrasting nature such as floods and droughts. The concept of ecosystem services is of central importance in most of the research conducted by EVES researchers. For detailed information please visit: https://ehs.unu.edu/about/departments/eves


The German-African inter- and transdisciplinary CLIMAFRI project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and will develop adaptation strategies in the transboundary Lower Mono river catchment of Togo and Benin. The overall aim is to reduce the current and future flood risk considering climate change through integrating science-based data with information and knowledge from local stakeholders and communities. The project collaborates with the environmental ministries in Togo and Benin, the responsible local authorities and the Competence Center of the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) to develop a transboundary river basin information system. The sustainable use of the project results in CLIMAFRI is ensured by a proactive engagement of sector-spanning actors and the education of future decision makers and scientist within the framework of the WASCAL Graduate Program. CLIMAFRI was initiated by Togo and Benin with the concrete demand to reduce the negative impacts of flood and non-regulation of water resources. Data and tools will be made available locally and regionally in West Africa.

UNU-EHS coordinates the CLIMAFRI project, assesses the vulnerability and risk of the socio-ecological system through floods, trains instructors on the developed technologies, coordinates the implementation of the river basin information system, and investigates whether insurance is a possible way of closing gaps in the risk management strategy.


Under the authority of the Director of UNU-EHS and the guidance of the EVES Head of Section, the successful candidate will be entrusted with the following tasks:

  • establish a research framework in the context of analysing vulnerability and risk of social-ecological systems to flooding in the Mono River Basin using an indicator-based, quantitative approach, and deriving appropriate ecosystem-based approaches in a participatory process to reduce flood risk; the candidate is expected to establish her/his research questions within the aforementioned framework
  • plan and implement a detailed research design, including definition of the underlying theoretical framework and appropriate research methods
  • stakeholder mapping to take into account the full range of relevant stakeholders to be involved in the analysis
  • supervision and capacity building of local enumerators and subsequent implementation of a household survey in Togo and Benin
  • conceptualisation and organisation of workshops for stakeholder consultations in Togo and Benin, and in other locations, including Bonn (Germany)
  • travel to undertake fieldwork in Togo & Benin
  • contribute to project reporting duties as required by the coordinator of the consortium


The unique nature of this assignment offers the opportunity to:

  • conduct research on flood risk analysis and ecosystem-based measures to reduce flood risk in the selected case study region
  • explore the participatory planning of ecosystem-based approaches to reduce flood risk and adapt to climate change
  • potentially apply and later operationalise approaches in the Mono River Basin

Required qualifications and experience

Required qualifications and experience include:

  • a masters degree in Geography, Geosciences, Geographical Information Systems, Statistics, Spatial Planning, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Management or other relevant disciplines
  • experience in vulnerability and risk assessment, ecosystem-based approaches for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation
  • advanced knowledge of spatial analysis and Geographic Information Systems (ArcGIS, QGIS, etc.)
  • statistical skills and experience with statistical software packages (SPSS, STATA, etc.)
  • experience in designing and coordinating field work for household surveys
  • experience in workshop organisation and stakeholder dialogue is an asset
  • experience in developing country contexts is required, the candidate should be especially fit for service in a tropical climate
  • track-record in scientific writing is an asset
  • strong ability to carry out work independently
  • excellent communication skills, including fluency in written and oral English and French is required
  • strong team player with strong interpersonal skills demonstrated by the ability to work in a multicultural, multi-ethnic environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity

This position entails a high degree of travel.

Applications from suitably qualified women candidates are particularly encouraged.


Remuneration will be 1,450 EUR per month, under the PhD Researcher category of the Personnel Service Agreement (PSA) pay scheme applied by UNU in Bonn.

Duration of contract

The successful candidate will be based at UNU-EHS in Bonn on a full-time basis under a Personnel Service Agreement (PSA) for a period of 12 months with the possibility of annual extension, up to 36 months or as required, based on a review of the state of progress every 12 months.

This is a locally recruited post and no relocation allowances apply. The successful candidate will be employed under a local contract and will not hold international civil servant status nor will he/she be a “staff member” as defined in the United Nations Staff Rules and Regulations.

Starting date

As soon as possible (preferably by 16 September 2019).

More information

Source: Notification United Nations University, August 2019