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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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Munich Re Foundation Chair on Social Vulnerability

The Munich Re Foundation (MRF) Chair on Social Vulnerability has been accommodated at UNU-EHS since 2005 to support and initiate policy relevant research on social vulnerability. This project has been extended to 2012 due to its success in the first project period between 2005 and 2009.

The concept of social vulnerability links the environments where people live to their social interactions, institutions and systems of different cultural values. In its broadest sense, social vulnerability refers to the inability of people, societies and organizations to cope with negative impacts from natural hazards or other shocks/disasters.

The chair consists of seven internationally renowned professors acting on a rotating basis for one academic year. They explore the cultural and economic dimensions of social vulnerability, including institutional and governance factors.

The project has engaged over 120 top PhD candidates from around the world in the annual summer academy, and has created an active social vulnerability network among students, prestigious academic institutions and professors.

A series of policy relevant publications dealing with social vulnerabilities from interdisciplinary perspectives has been generated by the summer academy participants and the chair holders.

Time Span


Key Goals

  • Expanding the social vulnerability research agenda
  • Increasing literature on social vulnerability
  • Building capacity of young professionals working with the MRF Chair network
  • Establishing the Munich Re Foundation Chair on Social Vulnerability as a recognized catalyst force

Working Methods

  • MRF Chair project strives to engage in innovative research that investigates the issues of social vulnerability, in particular, the nexus of environmental change and migration
  • Capacity-building: with the MRF chair-holders who provide a broad base of expertise in social vulnerability science, MRF project educates a young generation of scientists and familiarize them with policy language through various activities, in particular, the annual Summer Academy

  • Dissemination: the Chair project produces a series of policy relevant publications by young professionals and the MRF chair holders. These publications deal with social vulnerabilities from interdisciplinary perspectives and provide policy makers with practicable recommendations.

Chairholder 2009-2012


Prof. Michelle Leighton

Chairholder 2009-2010

University of San Francisco School of Law,

Centre for Law and Global Justice


Prof. Mohamed Hamza

Chairholder 2010-2011

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)


Prof. Susan L. Cutter

Chairholder 2011-2012

University of South Carolina, 

Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute

Chairholder 2005-2009


  • Dr. Cosmin Corendea

    Associate Academic Officer 

    MRF Chair

    Tel.: + 49-228-815-0274

    Fax: + 49-228-815-0299



Munich Re Foundation

Summer Academy on Social Vulnerability


Social Vulnerability Bulletin No. 5