Benno Werlen was appointed holder of the UNESCO-Chair in May 2018. From 1997 to 2018, he held the Chair of Social Geography at Friedrich Schiller University Jena. He has researched and taught geography at the Universities of Fribourg, Kiel, Zurich, Cambridge, Salzburg, Geneva, Nijmegen, and at the ETH Zurich. Benno Werlen is the founder and executive director of the International Year of Global Understanding (IYGU), which the three global science bodies of the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities proclaimed in 2016. He has served as a member of the European Research Council (ERC) and advisor to the World Cultural Forum Taihu. In 2016, he was awarded the International Geographical Unions Lauréat d'Honneur for his scientific lifetime achievement. In his research, Benno Werlen focuses on the theory and methodology of geography, globalization, and the regionalization of everyday geography, societal relationships with space, place images and urban/regional development, cultural dimensions of geographical practices, global sustainability, as well as political regionalism and nationalism.
Karsten Gäbler is the chair's scientific coordinator. After studying geography and philosophy, he served as a research associate at the Chair of Social Geography at Friedrich Schiller University from 2006 to 2018. In 2011, he earned his PhD with a thesis on social climate change, for which he received Friedrich Schiller University's PhD award in 2012. His research focuses on the theory of societal relationships with nature, sustainability studies, historical social geography, the history of geography, and societal relationships with space.