Kees van der Geest

Academic Officer / Head of EMIC Section

PhD, Human Geography, University of Amsterdam
Master's Degree, Human Geography, University of Amsterdam
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Dr. Kees van der Geest is Head of the “Environment and Migration: Interactions and Choices” (EMIC) Section at United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

Before becoming Head of Section in 2019, he worked at UNU-EHS as research consultant, research associate and senior researcher (2011-2019). From 2016 to 2018 he combined his work at UNU-EHS with a researcher position at the University of Hawaii.

Kees studied human geography (Master and PhD) at the University of Amsterdam and a semester at the University of Sussex (migration studies). For his PhD thesis he investigated the multiple linkages between human migration, environmental change and rural development in Ghana. Two journal articles from his PhD are in the top 50 of most influential papers on the relation between migration and the environment, according to ISI Web of Knowledge. After his PhD, Kees has published over 75 research papers, mostly in international peer-reviewed journals. One of his articles, co-authored with Dr. Koko Warner, is the most-cited paper worldwide on “loss and damage” from climate change.

As a human geographer, Kees studies the impacts of climate change on different types of human mobility, including migration, displacement and planned relocation. A second research focus is ‘loss and damage from climate change’. Livelihoods play an important role in his approach of these research topics. Key features of his work are the people-centred perspective and the mixed-method approach, combining quantitative and qualitative research tools. His work has contributed substantially to expanding the empirical evidence base on migration-environment linkages and impacts of climate change beyond adaptation (“loss and damage”). He also teaches in the Master programme ‘Geography of Environmental Risks and Human Security’, with the University of Bonn.

Kees has extensive fieldwork experience, mostly in Ghana (5 years), but also in Burkina Faso, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Nepal, Marshall Islands and Bolivia. He coordinated research in many other countries across the Global South.

From 2006 to 2012 Kees worked as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Amsterdam. He taught courses on environment and international development, and his research covered the fields of migration, environment, adaptation and rural development.

Kees has also been active as documentary filmmaker. His first, award-winning, documentary was screened at over twenty international film festivals worldwide. His second documentary received a nomination for the Jury Award of the Dutch Film Festival, and has been watched more than three million times online.