2019 Summer Academy on World Risk and Adaptation Futures: Demographic Change

    Accra, Ghana

    A leading global challenge today centers on the capacity to make appropriate decisions that will navigate countries and communities towards a safe, sustainable future. Uncertainty about future risk trends plays a central role in whether or not policy makers and practitioners can make decisions that help society adapt to climate risks and capture the opportunities ahead. Their decisions need to be informed by data assessments of future demographic change as it has a substantial influence on the future trajectories and patterns in exposure and vulnerability towards climate change hazards. This is especially true in highly dynamic developing countries and emerging economies. Likewise, changes for instance in social protection systems or insurance regimes will greatly influence future levels of vulnerability.

    In spite of this pressing need, decision makers often do not get the full picture about future risk trends and adaptation pathways. This is in part because science that supports decision-making focuses primarily on modeling and projecting future trends in environmental hazards, such as sea level rise or cyclone activity and tends to neglect social and economic transitions and their effects on future exposure and vulnerability trends.

    The “World Risk and Adaptation Futures – Demographic Change” Summer Academy 2019 is being jointly organized by United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), Munich Re Foundation (MRF) in collaboration with the UNFCCC. The Ludwig Maximilians University Munich (LMU) in Germany and United Nations University’s Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) in Accra, Ghana are associate partners for the 2019 summer academy. Starting with the question “What do decision makers in policy and practice need to know about risk and adaptation futures?”, each partner contributes to the unique environment of the summer academy for generating science and knowledge contributions back into policy and practice.

    The 2019 Summer Academy will take place in Accra, Ghana from 07 to 11 October. It will have a special focus on demographic change and its implication for future vulnerability and exposure towards climate risks. Young professionals, including academics, policy makers and practitioners are invited to apply by May 13, 2019.

    Objectives of the Summer Academy

    The Summer Academy programme has three objectives.

    • First, the programme aims to foster co-creation of decision support at the science-policy-action interface. The design of the academy starts by understanding the needs of decision makers in policy and practice – such as the UNFCCC process. Academy participants engage with these needs and then contribute the created knowledge and reflections into UNFCCC discussions around national adaptation planning, closing adaptation knowledge gaps, planning and creating contingency arrangements, research dialogues, relevant committee work programs and other policy outlets. Academy participants similarly have the opportunity to interact with communities of practice engaged with decision making that impacts on comprehensive risk management and sustainable development.
    • Second, the academy aims to advance the scientific understanding for assessing future exposure and vulnerability trends towards environmental and climatic hazards. The Summer Academy programme convenes leading researchers and other key stakeholders in order to collect, discuss and jointly advance the latest approaches in this field. In doing so, it will cover different thematic foci, spanning across a range of the most relevant sectors, scales and world regions. The academies will also address and debate methodological schools from different directions, e.g. integrated assessment modelling, forecasting, backcasting, visioning, and participatory scenario techniques.
    • Third, the programme aims to apply these methods to advance the actionable knowledge on potential trends in future exposure and vulnerability. Over the three years, the focus will in particular be on understanding the feedbacks of future exposure and vulnerability with three core dimensions of socio-economic change: urbanization, demographic change and social protection.


    Academy themes

    Urbanization is one of the core factors shaping future exposure and vulnerability to environmental and climatic hazards. A big share of future urbanization is expected to occur in hazard-prone coastal areas, in deltas or along rivers, driving up the potential for future damage. This holds true especially for the global hotspots of future urban growth, which are in Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Africa. However, methods to assess the pathways, magnitudes and patterns of future urbanization in a spatio-temporal fashion are still in their infancy, even though promising first approaches exist.

    Demographic change (which is closely linked with urbanization) will greatly alter the trajectory of future exposure and vulnerability. Typically in disaster situations, the young, the elderly and people facing a range of disabilities are especially predisposed to suffer harm. Therefore, preventive action and disaster preparation hinges on a sound understanding of the size and shape of these population groups in the future, as well as the spatial variability within countries or even provinces and cities. While expertise from the demographic sciences can offer powerful entry points into such assessment, methods need to be transferred and advanced to fit the needs of future-oriented exposure and vulnerability assessments across different scales.

    Social protection is of key importance for shaping human vulnerability towards floods, droughts, storms and other hazards. It includes important elements such as health insurance, cash transfer assistance, disability benefits or food assistance programmes. All of these are of key relevance for mitigating vulnerability and buffering the effects of future climatic hazards. At the same time, they are currently under a massive transformation in many countries, mostly with uncertain outcomes and unclear effects on vulnerability. Assessing plausible scenarios of future trajectories in social protection – and especially its breadth and depth – is therefore of great urgency. The existing methodological toolkits and bodies of knowledge are, however, strikingly thin to date, calling for substantially increased scientific efforts.

    Summer Academy 2019: Demographic change

    Demographic change will greatly alter the trajectory of future exposure and vulnerability. Typically in disaster situations, the young, the elderly and people facing a range of disabilities are especially predisposed to suffer harm. Therefore, preventive action and disaster preparation hinges on a sound understanding of the size and shape of these population groups in the future, as well as the spatial variability within countries or even provinces and cities. While expertise from the demographic sciences can offer powerful entry points into such assessment, methods need to be transferred and advanced to fit the needs of future-oriented exposure and vulnerability assessments across different scales.

    This year’s summer academy aims to bring together young researchers and practitioners as well as other relevant actors including policy makers and NGOs to jointly assess the relations between demographic change and climate change vulnerability, exposure and risk, and to inform policy formulation processes, especially with regard to the preparation of National Adaptation Plans (NAP), Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and supporting mechanism for availing the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

    Applications are invited to address the future risk scenarios of climate change adaption relating to the causes and consequences of demographic change:

    1. Adaptation to climate change and considerations of age, population change (shrinking and growing)
    2. Adaptation to climate change and considerations of human mobility (including urbanization, population redistribution, migration and displacement and other large scale movements of people)
    3. Availability of resources and climate change adaptation (including economic changes, rise/fall in human wellness and income, and other supporting variables)

    What do we offer:

    • Unique network and discussion with UN delegates, government officials and delegates to the UNFCCC climate negotiations
    • Financial assistance to deserving applicants

    Candidate Profiles:

    We are looking for researchers and practitioners with documented experience of working on at least two of the following themes: adaptation, demographic characteristics, population shifts (migration, urbanization, etc.), economic and social dimensions of climate change. Successful candidates are qualified women and men with profiles such as doctoral researchers in the final stage of their research, post-doctoral fellows, lecturers, assistant professors, practitioners working in ministries, implementing agencies and organizations related to the themes of the academy. Particular attention will be given to outstanding candidates from least developed countries. Successful candidates are expected to fully participate before and during the academy, and contribute to the network products. These include but are not limited to contributing to research papers, policy briefs, participation in events, policy engagement, etc.

    Advanced English language skills will be necessary.

    Academy Organizers:

    The Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) is one of 15 worldwide operating research and training centers and programmes of the United Nations University (UNU). Its mission is to contribute to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its member states. UNU’s current activities regarding research and training are mainly focused on the environment and sustainable development on the one hand and peace and governance on the other. UNU disseminates the knowledge gained in its activities to the United Nations and its agencies, to scholars and to the public, in order to increase dynamic interactions in the world-wide community of learning and research.

    Munich Re Foundation (MRF) is a non-profit foundation established by the Münchener Rückversicherungsgesellschaft Aktiengesellschaft in Munich (“Munich Re”) on the occasion of its 125th anniversary in 2005. People are ultimately at the core of what MRF’s work is all about. MRF’s task is to minimize the risks to which they are exposed. It supports science and provides support, also in developing countries. MRF’s aim is to prepare people to cope with risk and to improve their living conditions in relation to water as a resource and risk factor, population development, poverty, urbanization and megacities, disaster prevention, environmental and climate change.

    The UNFCCC secretariat (UN Climate Change) was established in 1992 when countries adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The secretariat to the Convention, located in Bonn, Germany, is the United Nations entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. The UNFCCC secretariat supports a complex architecture of bodies that serve to advance the implementation of the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The secretariat provides technical expertise and assists in the analysis and review of climate change information reported by Parties and in the implementation of the Kyoto mechanisms. It also maintains the registry for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) established under the Paris Agreement, a key aspect of implementation of the Paris Agreement.

    Ludwig Maximilians University Munich (LMU) is recognized as one of Europe’s premier academic and research institutions. The Teaching and Research Section on Human-Environment-Relations within the Department of Geography works on issues of sustainable development and transformations in coupled human-environment-systems. Key areas of work include climate change and environmental risks. The section develops, tests and imparts inter- and transdisciplinary methods for the assessment of future risk trends as well as for the multi-criteria evaluation of potential strategies risk reduction and climate change adaptation. While pursuing a global perspective, the section’s empirical research is particularly focused on Europe, Asia and Africa. Next to fundamental research, the section is keen to deliver scientific knowledge that is of high practical and policy relevance and provides decision support. The section therefore collaborates closely with decision makers and stakeholders from the local to the global level, e.g. urban administrations or United Nations programs.

    United Nations University’s Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) is a part of the UNU network, and the only UNU institute based in Africa, with an Africa focused agenda fulfilling the UNU mandate as a think-tank. Its mission is to offer strategic and targeted insights and solutions to African governments for lasting responses to natural resource management (NRM) challenges in a bid to create a prosperous, fair and sustainable Africa. It focuses on (NRM) in Africa. By arming Africa with the right knowledge, the right tool and the right approach, UNU-INRA aims at helping the continent to lead and steer its own development using natural resources as engine for growth and prosperity.

  • Application process

    • 2 April 2019: Call for applications
    • 13 May 2019: Application deadline
    • 4 June 2019: Notification of acceptance

    Applications must be submitted online.


    Important documents needed for application (to be submitted online via the apply online link)

    • A short motivational letter including one concise paragraph describing how your work relates to the Summer Academy 2019 theme;
    • A concise abstract (300 words max.) of the work you would like to present, covering the rationale, approach/methods and key findings of your work. This work should be very closely related to the theme of this year’s academy as explained in candidate profile and if selected would serve as your initial contribution towards participation. Selected candidates are expected to submit full length paper by 08 September 2019. More information in this regard will be provided along with the notification of acceptance. Accepted papers may eventually be published in suitable peer reviewed academy journal or as a part UNU special publication and/or as a part of policy brief.
    • An up-to-date CV, including a list of publications or concluded projects if available;
    • Contact details of a referee.
  • Format and outcomes of the Summer Academy programme

    The central element is a set of three sessions of the Summer Academy on World Risk Futures and Adaptation, the first one was held in 2018, the second and third ones will be held in 2019 and 2020. Similar to the first academy, next two summer schools will be working towards the cross-cutting theme of supporting decision making through actionable knowledge regarding future risk pathways. Each of the summer academies has a different thematic focus relevant to policy and practice. Each summer academy is designed to convene 20-30 participants. These shall include researchers (a mixture of PhD students, post-docs, mid-career researchers), invited risk practitioners (e.g. from national, sub-national and international risk management agencies or the insurance sector) and selected policymakers.

    In addition, the summer academies will feature 2-3 invited high-level keynote speakers. Each summer academy is foreseen to lead to the coordinated production of a number of publications, ranging from academic papers to technical guidelines and policy briefs. The contributions are meant to provide specific scientific inputs as well as supporting the climate change adaption related policy formulation and implementation mechanisms of relevant stakeholders.

    The academy series is designed to directly facilitate the application of scientific knowledge and methodologies in policy and action. The targeted domains include the global institutions for risk reduction and adaptation (e.g. the management of the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund), national ministries behind adaptation policies and disaster risk reduction, or local decision makers (e.g. at city scale). Besides state organizations, transfer and application of methods and knowledge is also directed at other actors from the private sector (e.g. insurers) and civil society (e.g. non-profit associations or philanthropic foundations).

  • For further information you can reach us at summer.academy2019@ehs.unu.edu.