PhD Position

UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)
Bonn, Germany
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
International Organization
Experience Level: 
Not Specified
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


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United Nations University objectives

The United Nations University (UNU) is an international community of scholars engaged in research, postgraduate teaching and capacity development, and dissemination of knowledge in furtherance of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The mission of UNU is to contribute, through research and capacity building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States.

UNU 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 

Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII): MCII was initiated as a charitable organisation by representatives of insurers, research institutes, and NGOs in April 2005 in response to the growing realisation that insurance solutions can play a role in adaptation to climate change, as suggested in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. This initiative is hosted at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS). As a leading think tank on climate change and insurance, MCII is focused on developing solutions for the risks posed by climate change for the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing countries.

CLIMAFRI: The German-African inter- and trans-disciplinary CLIMAFRI project will co-develop adaptation strategies in the transboundary Lower Mono river catchment of Togo and Benin through integrating science-based facts with information and knowledge from local stakeholders and communities in order to reduce the current and future flood risk considering climate change. The partnership with the environmental ministries in Togo and Benin will ensure that the project results are implemented in a sustainable manner. The river basin information system to be developed in the project will be implemented at the responsible local authority and the Competence Center of the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL), making the data and tools available locally and regionally in West Africa. The use of project results in CLIMAFRI is ensured by a proactive engagement of sector-spanning actors and the formation of future employees 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.

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 MCII Executive Director, the successful candidate will be entrusted with the following tasks:

  • establishment of a research framework in the context of existing risk management and risk sharing arrangements undertaken by the communities in the Mono River Basin, including the parameters of insurability concerning flood risk in the Mono River Basin, as well as possible insurance solutions that cater to the needs of local communities. The candidate is expected to establish her/his research questions within the aforementioned framework
  • research design, incl. definition of the underlying theoretical framework, the appropriate research methods, and survey design
  • 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
  • contribution to project reporting duties as required by the lead organisation of the consortium

The unique nature of this assignment offers the opportunity to

  • conduct research on innovative comprehensive risk management approaches in the selected case study areas
  • explore the application of climate risk insurance approaches
  • potentially apply and later operationalise approaches in the Mono River Basin

Required qualifications and experience

Required qualifications and experience include:

  • MSc or MA degree in Human Geography, Development Economics, Sustainability Studies, Risk Management, Insurance, or a related field
  • the candidate should have identified a host university for the PhD degree
  • curiosity to engage in a new field of research.
  • experience in the conceptualisation and implementation of quantitative and qualitative research instruments
  • experience in designing and coordinating field work for large household surveys
  • experience in data analysis
  • experience in developing country contexts is required; the candidate should be especially fit for service in a tropical climate
  • experience in executing research activities in developing country contexts is an asset
  • familiarity with risk management, risk assessment, climate change adaptation, and/or hazard sciences more generally is strongly required
  • previous exposure to insurance approaches in developing country contexts would be an asset
  • experience in workshop organisation and stakeholder dialogue is an asset
  • excellent communication skills, including fluency in written and oral English and French is strongly required
  • knowledge of GIS software is an asset
  • ability for concise scientific writing and a track record of publications in relevant scientific journals is advisable
  • 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. 

PhD position with PSA contract

Remuneration will be 1,450 EUR per month, under PhD Researcher category of the 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; no relocation allowances apply. The successful candidate will be employed under a local contract and will not hold international civil servant status nor is he/she a “staff member” as defined in the United Nations Staff Rules and Regulations.

Starting date

1 May 2019