The Urban Opportunity for Building a Resilient Future

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The fourth Frontiers of Development symposium was held in partnership with Heriot-Watt University and took place from Tuesday 23 July to Friday 26 July 2019 at the university's Malaysia campus in Putrajaya. This was the first event in the Building Resilience series.

Approximately 65 leaders from different disciplines and countries came together to discuss the challenges faced when considering the opportunity for building a resilient future in an urban context. Sub-themes considered included preparing for and responding to urban environmental hazards; planning for a sustainable urban future; and building resilient urban communities. 


Participant countdown


Event Chairs

Professor Garry Pender FREng, Heriot-Watt University

Garry Pender

Professor Garry Pender FREng is Deputy Principal (Research and Innovation) at Heriot-Watt University, with responsibility for implementing the university’s research and innovation strategy, including that in its Dubai and Malaysia Campuses. His background is in civil engineering and his personal research interests lie in flood management and sediment transport. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Academy of Engineering.



Professor Caroline Knowles, Goldsmiths, University of London

Caroline Knowles

Professor Caroline Knowles is Director of the Cities and Infrastructure Programme at the British Academy, Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. An urban sociologist, Caroline is the author of many books and papers on cities, ethnicity, race, and the circulations of people (as migrants) and of objects composing contemporary globalization. Her books include Flip-Flop: A Journey through Globalisation’s Backroads,; Hong Kong: Migrant Lives, Landscapes and Journeys; Race and Social Analysis; and Bedlam on the Streets.


Symposium sub-themes

At the core of each symposium is three multidisciplinary, workshop-style sessions which focus on different sub-themes. Participants are expected to attend every session to maximise the opportunity to make new contacts and build collaborative relationships. Whilst a session may not directly relate to an individual's research area, it is expected that participants attend all sessions to learn how their work can link in with the work of researchers from other disciplines, in order to address development challenges.

Preparing for and responding to urban environmental hazards

Session Co-Chair: Bruce Malamud, King's College London
Session Co-Chair: Lindsay Beevers, Heriot-Watt University


  • Complicated and complex: How do we include multi-hazard risk in the urban Global South?
    Faith Taylor, King's College London
  • Can we engineer resilience to hazards in urban areas? EU case studies 
    Maria Pregnolato, University of Bristol
  • How does dynamic vulnerability influence urban resilience? Case study of Bandung City, Indonesia
    Saut Sagala, Resilience Development Initiative

          Working in pairs       

Planning for a sustainable urban future  

Session Co-Chair: Ya Ping Wang, University of Glasgow
Session Co-Chair: Claudia Loggia, University of KwaZulu-Natal


  • What is the role of multi-scalar private entrepreneurs in low-income informal settlements in the Global South?
    Yasmin Ara, Lancaster University
  • What are the challenges of using data for transport planning in the Global South?
    Roberto Speicys Cardoso, Scipopulis
  • What is the role of urban blue and green infrastructures in planning for a sustainable future?
    Alex Lechner, University of Nottingham (Malaysia)

          Group listeningRoberto Speicys Cardoso

Building resilient urban communities

Session Co-Chair: Diane Archer, Stockholm Environment Institute
Session Co-Chair: Nishara Fernando, University of Colombo


  • Eric Chu, University of California, Davis
  • Huraera Jabeen, BRAC University
  • Bansari Prajapati, Mahila Housing SEWA Trust


          Yun Ii discussing resilience strategyChat show in action


On the second day, participants had the opportunity to hear from Professor Paul Wilkinson, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Paul gave a keynote about the research that is being undertaken by LSHTM's Centre on Climate Change & Planetary Health regarding how cities can achieve healthy and sustainable urban development. 


          Paul Wilkinson keynoteGoodman asking a question

We were pleased to welcome Matthew Oakley, Technical Director at Mott MacDonald, for a second case-study keynote on the final morning. This focused on the work that Mott MacDonald have undertaken in Malaysia and the wider region to build climate resilience measures into infrastructure. For example, the Stormwater Management And Road Tunnel (SMART Tunnel) in Kuala Lumpur. 

          Melissa Bedinger audienceMatthew Oakley


As part of the symposium schedule, participants also had the opportunity to visit the centre of Kuala Lumpur where they heard from AECOM Associate Director and Landscape Designer, Hana Suhana Suhaimi. Hana gave participants an insight into AECOM's role as delivery partner in the Malaysian government's River of Life project. 

Group photo, River of Life

Frontiers of Development seed funding

Seed funding grants worth up to £20,000 each were available to groups of two or more participants of the symposium. Successful project titles and awardees from previous symposia are listed here

How to Get Involved

If you would like to express interest in attending a Frontiers of Development event, please visit the How to get involved page to fill out an Expression of Interest form. 
To get more of a flavour of the event, take a look at our other past symposia or explore #FrontiersDev on Twitter.