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. 6/2007 - Living with Vulnerability by Hans-Georg Bohle


The InterSecTions No.6 “Living with Vulnerability” draws the reader's attention to look at vulnerable groups with a new lens—a lens that requires a pragmatic approach to vulnerability which is dynamic and may resist technological change. The title chosen by the author Prof. Bohle also invites the reader to view the vulnerable as agents reacting to and shaping their own resilience.

Download the issue No. 6/2007 here .

This article provides insights into how those characterized as “most vulnerable” deal with the multiple stressors that affect them. He shows how these groups cope with risks in highly flexible, innovative and adaptive ways. This message, explained in case studies of Nepal and Sri Lanka, provides hopeful evidence that the vulnerable are not passive recipients of policy and other forms of assistance—they actively shape their coping strategies and have a degree of dynamic resilience in the face of shocks. However, the sometimes experimental coping approaches of socially vulnerable groups fail. These failures are linked to social capital, or the position of these vulnerable groups in the social and power frameworks in villages or urban places.

This paper has important implications for policy discussions on human security. Prof. Bohle explores the fragility of marginalized groups, particularly in the face of new threats like climate change that may represent a change of states and not “only” a shock to a relatively stable system. As the environments in which vulnerable groups live change, so will the ability of these groups change to use commonly held assets to pursue stable livelihoods and human security.

Excerpt from the foreword by Janos J. Bogardi