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.


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InterSecTions No. 8/2009 Deals with Nature, Society, and Population Displacement


“Nature, Society, and Population Displacement. Toward an Understanding of Environmental Migration and Social Vulnerability” is written by Professor Anthony Oliver-Smith in his capacity as Munich Re Foundation Chair on Social Vulnerability. In this article he addresses in a scientifically meticulous manner the issue and debate surrounding population displacement and the role that environmental factors may or may not play in driving populations away from their original places of residence.

Download No. 8/2009

In assessing the driving factors in environmental migration, he posits that environments are not naturally given entities but human constructed. He also emphasizes that climate change is anthropogenic, and not a natural phenomenon. Further, he points out that since climate change is human caused, nature, or those features and forces characteristic of the non-human, biophysical world, therefore cannot generally be blamed for displacing people. In the light of human driven environmental changes, in particular climate change, which are expected to increasingly displace people, we therefore need to be clear about the nature and origin of the threats.

In this important, objective and highly policy relevant contribution to the topic of environmental migration/displacement, Professor Oliver-Smith adopts a unique perspective to explore the climate/environmental change and migration nexus, embedding the environmental migration discussion in ecology and vulnerability theories.