United Nations University

The United Nations University (UNU) is the academic arm of the United Nations (UN). It bridges the academic world and the UN system. Its goal is to develop sustainable solutions for current and future problems of humankind in all aspects of life. Through a problem-oriented and interdisciplinary approach it aims at applied research and education on a global scale. UNU was founded in 1973 and is an autonomous organ of the UN General Assembly. The University comprises headquarters Tokyo, Japan, and more than a dozen Institutes and Programmes worldwide.


Quick Links





Explore UNU Bonn´s entities

Dr Joern Birkmann


Head of Section

Academic Officer

Tel.: + 49-228-815-0208



Joern holds a PhD in Spatial Planning from the Dortmund University and a post-doctoral degree in Geography (Habilitation) from the University of Bonn, Department of Geography. Furthermore, he holds a licence as urban planner. He has broad expertise in the field of vulnerability, sustainable development and environmental assessment. He is specialized in the area of the development of assessment methodologies and indicators to estimate and evaluate different socio-economic trends and environmental degradation at sub-national, local and household scale.

He is currently IPCC Lead-Author in the IPCC Special Report “Managing the Risk of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation”. He is also Lead-Author in the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC in the chapter "Emergent Risks and Key-Vulnerabilities". His work experience also encompasses research activities and lectures, for example in London and Mexico. Besides research and training activities at UNU-EHS, Joern also teaches at the Institute for Geography at the University of Bonn. He is currently involved in vulnerability assessment in coastal and flood-prone communities in Indonesia and Vietnam and also coordinates the development and testing of indicators to measure vulnerability to floods, heatwaves and droughts, as well as sea level rise in Germany, Egypt and Indonesia.

Working Area at UNU-EHS

At UNU-EHS, Joern is responsible for the area of vulnerability assessment. His research area encompasses the development of methodologies to identify and measure vulnerability and coping capacity of societies, economies and the environment to hazards of natural origin. He is focal point for:

  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Risk management

  • Monitoring and indicator development
  • Sustainable development, resilience, vulnerability and risk reduction
  • Spatial and urban planning, Geography.


  • Vulnerability Assessment of coastal communities in Sri Lanka
  • UNU-EHS Expert Working Group “Measuring Vulnerability”
  • DISFLOOD - Disaster Information System for Large-scale Flood Events using Earth Observation
  • Vulnerability assessment in the Volga Region (linked to CABRI)
  • Indicators for estimating vulnerability and coping capacity in Germany

Publications (selection)

Birkmann, J. (2010): Regulation and Coupling of Society and Nature in the Context of Natural Hazards – Different theoretical approaches and conceptual frameworks and their applicability to analyse social-ecological crises phenomena. In: Brauch, H.G.; Oswald Spring, U.; Kameri-Mbote, P.; Mesjasz, C.; Grin, J.; Chourou, B.; Dunay, P.; Birkmann, J. (Eds.): Coping with Global Environmental Change, Disasters and Security Threats, Challenges, Vulnerabilities and Risks. Springer (accepted - in print) (peer-reviewed).

Birkmann, J. (2010): Global Disaster Response and Reconstruction: Stabilization versus Destabilization – Challenges of the Global Disaster Response to Reduce Vulnerability and Risk Following Disasters. In: Dölemeyer, A.; Zimmer, J.; Tetzlaff, G. (Eds.): Risk and Planet Earth – Vulnerability, Natural Hazards, Integrated Adaptation Strategies. Schweizerbart, pp. 43-55.

Birkmann, J.; von Teichmann, K. (2010): Integrating disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation: key challenges—scales, knowledge, and norms. In: Sustainability Science. vol.  5(2), pp. 171-184 (peer-reviewed) DOI 10.1007/s11625-010-0108-y.

Birkmann, J.; Garschagen, M.; Kraas, F.; Quang, N. (2010): Adaptive urban governance: new challenges for the second generation of urban adaptation strategies to climate change. In: Sustainability Science. vol.  5(2), pp. 185-206 (peer-reviewed) DOI 10.1007/s11625-010-0111-3.

Miller, F.; Osbahr, H.; Boyd, E.; Thomalla, F.; Bharwani, S.; Ziervogel, G.; Walker, B.; Birkmann, J.; van der Leeuw, S.; Rockström, J.; Hinkel, J., Downing, T.; Folke, C.; Nelson, D. (2010): Resilience and vulnerability: complementary or conflicting concepts?. In: Ecology and Society. vol. 15(3): 11. (online: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss3/art11/)

Birkmann, J.; von Teichman, K.; Aldunce, P.; Bach, C.; Binh, N. T.; Garschagen, M.; Kanwar, S.; Setiadi, N.; Thach, L. N.; Oliver-Smith, A. (2009): Addressing the Challenge: Recommendations and Quality Criteria for Linking Disaster Risk Reduction and Adaptation to Climate Change: In: Birkmann, J.; Tetzlaff, G.; Zentel, K.-O.(Eds.): DKKV Publication Series, No. 38, Bonn.

Bogardi, J.; Birkmann, J.; Gebert, N.; Setiadi, N. (2009): Security Challenge: Preparing for Not-Experienced, Low-Frequency, Extreme Natural Hazards. In: Brauch, H.G.; Oswald Spring, Ú.; Grin, J.; Mesjasz, C.; Kameri-Mbote, P.; Behera, N.C.; Chourou, B.; Krummenacher, H. (Eds.): Facing Global Environmental Change - Environmental, Human, Energy, Food, Health and Water Security Concepts. Springer, pp. 283-293 (peer-reviewed).

Schlipf, S.; Birkmann, J. (2009): Neue Strategien und Handlungsfelder zur Anpassung an den Klimawandel durch räumliche Planung auf Regionalebene. In: Deutsches Komitee für Katastrophenvorsorge; Deutscher Wetterdienst (Eds.): Herausforderungen für die Katastrophenvorsorge im 21. Jahrhundert.

Birkmann, J.; Fleischhauer, M. (2009): Anpassungsstrategien der Raumentwicklung an den Klimawandel: „Climate Proofing“ – Konturen eines neuen Instruments. In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung. vol. 67 (2), pp. 114-127 (peer reviewed).

Overbeck; G.; Sommerfeldt, P.; Köhler, S.; Birkmann, J. (2009): Klimawandel und Regionalplanung, Ergebnisse einer Umfrage des ARL-Arbeitskreises „Klimawandel und Raumplanung“. In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung. vol. 67 (2), pp. 194-204 (peer-reviewed).

Fekete, A.; Damm, M.; Birkmann, J. (2009): Scales as a Challenge for Vulnerability Assessment. In: Natural Hazards (published online on 2 September 2009) (peer-reviewed) .

Taubenböck, H.; Goesberg, N.; Setiadi, N.; Lämmel, G.; Moder, F.; Oczipka, M.; Klüpfel, H.; Wahl, R.; Schlurmann, T.; Strunz, G.; Birkmann, J.; Nagel, K.; Siegert, F.; Lehmann, F.; Dech, S.; Grees, A., Klein, R. (2009): ‚Last-Mile’ preparation to a potential disaster – Interdisciplinary approach towards tsunami early warning and an evacuation information system for the coastal city of Padang, Indonesia. In: Natural Hazards and the Earth System Science. vol. 9, pp. 1509-1528 (peer-reviewed).

Renaud, F.; Birkmann, J.; Damm, M.; Gallopin, G. (2009): Resilience of coupled social-ecological systems: thresholds, collapses and renewal. In: Natural Hazards (accepted and in print) (peer-reviewed).

Birkmann, J. (2009): Soziale Aspekte für den Bevölkerungsschutz fassbar machen. In: Notfallvorsorge. vol. 40 (2), pp. 16-19.

Birkmann, J.; Buckle, P., Jaeger, J.; Pelling, M.; Setiadi, N.; Garschagen, M.; Fernando, N.; Kropp, J. (2008): Extreme events and disasters: a window of opportunity for change? Analysis of changes, formal and informal responses after mega-disasters. In: Natural Hazards ( “published online” on 13 December 2008) (peer-reviewed).

Birkmann, J. (2008): Globaler Umweltwandel, Vulnerabilität und Disaster Resilienz – Erweiterung der raumplanerischen Perspektiven (Global Change, Vulnerability and Disaster Resilience – Advancement of the Perspective of Spatial Planning). In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung. vol. 66 (1), pp. 5-22 (peer-reviewed).

Birkmann, J. (2008): Lernen aus “Natur”katastrophen, Die “letzte” Meile zur ersten machen. In: Geographie und Schule . vol. 30, Heft 171, pp. 11-19 .

Birkmann, J.; Krings, S. (2008): Die Vulnerabilität Kritischer Infrastrukturen gegenüber (möglichen) Auswirkungen des Klimawandels. In: Notfallvorsorge. vol. 39 (4), pp. 25-30.

Birkmann, J.; Fernando, N. (2008): Measuring revealed and emergent vulnerabilities of coastal communities to tsunami in Sri Lanka. In: Disasters. vol. 32 (1), pp. 82-104 (peer-reviewed) .

Birkmann, J. (2008): Assessing Vulnerability Before, During and After Natural Disaster in Fragile Regions – Case Study of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. UNU-WIDER Research Paper No. 2008/50, Helsinki (peer-reviewed).

Birkmann, J.; Setiadi, N.; Gebert, N. (2008): Socio-Economic Vulnerability Assessment at the Local Level in Context of Tsunami Early Warning and Evacuation Planning in the City of Padang, West Sumatra; Paper for International Conference on Tsunami Warning, November 12-14, 2008, Nusa Dua, Indonesia.