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Dr Arabella Fraser

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Lecturer in International Development
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Polis, Phil, Econ, Dev, Geog
  • Development
  • arabella.fraser

Professional biography

Arabella is a Lecturer in International Development. She holds a PhD in International Development (London School of Economics), MSc in Politics of Development (London School of Economics) and BA (Hons) in Social and Political Sciences (University of Cambridge). Prior to joining the OU, she was a Research Fellow in Risk and Resilience at the Overseas Development Institute and Research Associate at King’s College London.

Arabella has 15 years’ experience working in development research for major international organisations. From 2010-2013 she worked as a research consultant for the World Bank on a project to support urban adaptation planning for small and medium sized cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. From 2003-2008 she was a research advisor at Oxfam Great Britain, where she led research on rural livelihoods, trade and development finance, with secondments to work for UNDP in Rwanda and Oxfam Spain in Peru. She has also conducted research for IIED, UN-Habitat and the Centre for Family and Social Research, Metropolitan University, Caracas, Venezuela.   

Research interests

My research focusses on the politics and governance of development and development practice under the changing dynamics of urban vulnerability to climate change risks. Current interests include the influence of international climate finance on urban adaptation in low and middle income country cities; the linkages between urban violence and environmental risks; approaches to risk reduction in informal, urban settlements; and the implications of managed retreat and resettlement policies in response to climate risks for human development in urban areas of the global South. Theoretically, my work draws on theories of institutions and environmental change, science and technology studies, critical planning theories, and systems theory to understand the socio-political dimensions and drivers of human vulnerability to environmental risks in urbanising contexts.

Following prior research in the Dutch and French Caribbean, I also have a particular interest in the governance of disaster recovery in the region.  

My research at KCL examined how the immediate causes of vulnerability and risk to small-scale but high-impact flood events in coastal regions are influenced by national, regional and global-scale drivers. This work also involved inter-disciplinary working with agent-based models and quantitative vulnerability assessments to develop a holistic flood risk assessment methodology. My PhD thesis examined the politics of risk assessment in the informal, urban settlements of Bogota, Colombia, and the implications for theories of urban risk, vulnerability and climate adaptation.

Teaching interests

Arabella is currently the module chair for T879 Conflict and Development and co-chair for TD223: International Development: making sense of a changing world. She is acting PhD Convenor for the Department of Development Policy and Practice She also supervises a PhD student based at the UNESCO Sustainability Centre, Polytechnic University of Catalunya, Barcelona. She has previously taught at the London School of Economics and University of Exeter and acted as an examiner for the University of London international programmes, as well as guest lecturing on urban climate change adaptation at Oxford Brookes and Reading universities.

Impact and engagement

External collaborations


Africa’s urban adaptation transition under a 1.5° climate (2018-04)
Pelling, Mark; Leck, Hayley; Pasquini, Lorena; Ajibade, Idowu; Osuteye, Emanuel; Parnell, Susan; Lwasa, Shuaib; Johnson, Cassidy; Fraser, Arabella; Barcena, Alejandro and Boubacar, Soumana
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 31 (pp. 10-15)
Informality in the New Urban Agenda: From the Aspirational Policies of Inclusion to the Politics of Constructive Engagement (2018-01-12)
Fraser, Arabella
Planning Theory and Practice, 19(1) (pp. 124-126)
The Missing Politics of Urban Vulnerability: The State and the Co-production of Climate Risk. (2017-12-01)
Fraser, Arabella
Environment and Planning A, 49(12) (pp. 2835-2852)
Meeting the challenge of risk-sensitive and resilient urban development in sub-Saharan Africa: Directions for future research and practice. (2017-12)
Fraser, Arabella; Leck, Hayley; Parnell, Susan; Pelling, Mark; Brown, Donald and Lwasa, Shuaib
International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 26 (pp. 106-109)
Africa’s Urban Risk and Resilience (2017-12)
Fraser, Arabella; Leck, Hayley; Parnell, Sue and Pelling, Mark
International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 26 (pp. 1-6)
Developing Frameworks to Understand Disaster Causation: From Forensic Disaster Investigation to Risk Root Cause Analysis (2016-06)
Fraser, Arabella; Paterson, Shona and Pelling, Mark
Journal of Extreme Events, 3, Article 1650008(2)
The politics of knowledge and the production of vulnerability in informal, urban settlements: learning from Bogota, Colombia (2016-05-16)
Fraser, Arabella
In: Roy, Manoj; Cawood, Sally; Hordijk, Michaela and Hulme, David eds. Urban Poverty and Climate Change: Life in the Slums of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Routledge Advances in Climate Change Research (pp. 221-237)
ISBN : 9781138860506 | Publisher : Routledge
Understanding Risk in the Context of Urban Development: Definitions, Concepts and Pathways (2016)
Fraser, Arabella; Pelling, Mark and Solecki, Bill
In: Bartlett, Sheridan and Satterthwaite, David eds. Cities on a Finite Planet: Towards transformative responses to climate change (pp. 17-40)
ISBN : 9781138184091 | Publisher : Routledge
Rethinking Urban Risk And Adaptation: The Politics Of Vulnerability In Informal Urban Settlements (2015-05)
Fraser, Arabella
PhD thesis London School of Economics and Political Science