Disaster Resilience & Urbanisation

We live in an urban age where cities are growing by 1.5 million people per week. Two-thirds of us will be city-dwellers by 2050 – that’s 2.5 billion more than today.

Cities offer opportunities for livelihoods and industry including employment and education. Cities also highlight growing inequality and fuel climate change.

So, how do we ensure future cities are more sustainable, resilient and inclusive? How do we create cities that do not continue to deplete resources, increase temperatures and contribute to chronic poverty?

This work, led by Professor David Sanderson and Dr Paul Barnes, examines the ways that urbanisation and disaster resilience are connected. Since 2016 their work has been embedded within UNSW's Grand Challenge on Rapid Urbanisation.

David and Paul continue this work at UNSW focussed on the intersection between urbanisation, cities, livelihoods and inequality.

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David has over 25 years experience working across the world in development and emergencies and is a Professor at UNSW’s Faculty of Built Environment. From 1994-98 David was a Project Manager at the Oxford Centre for Disaster Studies. David worked for eight years for the NGO CARE International UK, as head of policy and subsequently Regional Manager for southern and west Africa. 

From 2006-2013 David was Director of CENDEP, a centre at Oxford Brookes University focusing on development and emergencies. Between 2013-14 he was a full time Visiting Professor at Harvard University, where he taught a course, 'Design for urban disaster', and from 2014-2015 was a Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). David was appointed the Inaugural Judith Neilson Chair of Architecture at UNSW in February 2016. 

David has published articles and papers concerning urban livelihoods, shelter and disaster risk reduction. He has carried out a number of assignments for NGOs and donors across the world, and in recent years has led post-disaster reviews in Haiti, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines and Nepal. 

He was editor of the 2016 IFRC World Disasters Report. David was trained in architecture and holds a masters degree in Development Practice and a PhD in urban livelihoods and vulnerability. 

You can contact David at: david.sanderson@unsw.edu.au.

Dr Paul Barnes holds an undergraduate degree in Environmental Health Sciences and a Doctorate examining risk perception and organisational risk management within emergency response agencies.  He has experience in specialist public sector management roles focused on emergency and risk management, security policy development and as a tenured academic.  He has completed projects for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies, the European Commission (European Research Agency) and the Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on national risk assessment frameworks.  

He currently maintains memberships of the World Economic Forum Expert Network (Risk & Resilience), the International Military Council on Climate and Security (Washington DC), UN Global Risk Assessment Framework (GRAF) Working Group(s), and is a (non-Resident) Associate Fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

He also serves as a visiting Associate Professor within the Torrens Resilience Institute, Flinders University, Australia and retains adjunct roles with the Centre for Environmental & Public Health, Griffith University and the School of Engineering and Information Management at the University of New South Wales/Australian Defence Force Academy.

You can contact Paul at: paul.barnes@unsw.edu.au.

Content on this page has been adapted from the UNSW Grand Challenges website. The IGD recognises the contribution of the UNSW Grand Challenge on Rapid Urbanisation in supporting this work.