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  3. The Politics of ‘Building Back Better’: Learning, Knowledge and Sustainable Development in the Caribbean post Hurricane Irma

The Politics of ‘Building Back Better’: Learning, Knowledge and Sustainable Development in the Caribbean post Hurricane Irma

Wed, 25 April 2018, 12:00 to 14:00

The Open University, Milton Keynes: Oak Seminar Room, Learning & OD Centre-Wilson C

Lunch 1200-1230 - Discussion and presentation 1230-1400

Speaker: Dr Arabella Fraser, Lecturer in International Development, Development Policy and Practice, FASS


Climate and weather-related disaster events not only reveal underlying social conditions but, under certain circumstances, can propel the reorganisation of particular policy regimes to reduce risks. The depth and extent of such changes depends in part on the opportunity and capacity for different forms of learning. The paper will draw on fieldwork to be undertaken in March 2018 in the Dutch and French Caribbean to investigate how policy learning is occurring post Hurricane Irma in the local governance context of small island states influenced by different post-colonial regimes, but also in the context of new international platforms and motifs for action: the ‘Build Back Better’ agenda of the Sendai Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals. Through workshops and semi-structured interviews the fieldwork – co-conducted with King’s College London through an EU FP7 grant – will explore the visions, knowledges, capacities and networks of relevant stakeholders in the urban land use and housing and health sectors. The resulting paper aims to ask new questions about the drivers of institutional learning processes in the ongoing political negotiation of post-colonial regimes, where notions of sovereignty, responsibility and governance are being worked out across changing spheres of hierarchical and networked authority with implications for the relationship between environmental regulation and development futures. The paper will explore how relevant visions, knowledges and capacities are co-constituted in such a post-disaster politics. It will consider the implications for practice of the resulting political rethinking of the (increasingly coupled) relationship between trajectories of disaster recovery and trajectories of sustainable development.


Arabella joined the Open University as a Lecturer in International Development in January 2018, having previously worked as a Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute and Research Associate at King’s College London. Her research centres on the politics and governance of development and development practice under the changing dynamics of urban vulnerability to climate change risks, with a particular interest in the emergence and impact of institutional innovations for urban climate resilience and the politics of scientific knowledge in those innovations.

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