New Urban ARK website launched

News, 12 November 2015
A new website profiles a research and capacity building programme focusing on urban disaster risk reduction in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Urban ARK website

The Urban ARK website

The Urban Africa Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) website has been launched to provide information and community resources for a three-year programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Economic and Social Research Council, looking at urbanisation and disaster risk reduction in African cities.

The work seeks to open up an applied research and policy agenda for risk management in urban sub-Saharan Africa

The website profiles the project's key work programmes and provides city case studies, as well as blogs and publications. In future it will provide information on stakeholder meetings and workshops.  

The website also sets out details of the Urban ARK fellowship scheme, and is currently advertising for two PhD studentships.

Programme focus

Urban ARK aims to respond to three key challenges that hamper efforts integrate disaster risk reduction into urban development:

  1. A lack of basic data: there is not enough information on hazard and loss and on the social conditions that shape susceptibility to harm. Data is also lacking on coping and adaptive capacities
  2. A lack of systematic analysis: we need to look at  the ways in which urbanisation processes influence the social, geographical and temporal distribution of risk and loss in contemporary African towns and cities, and 
  3. Inadequate human capacity: a key challenge is the lack of capacity among those at risk, in civil society, government and the private sector, as well as a lack of coordinated effort to reduce disaster risk.

City cases

The website features case studies of the key cities that form part of the work programme. The project is focusing in depth on four cities: Ibadan in Nigeria, Karonga in Malawi, Nairobi in Kenya and Niamey in Niger. Each of these cities presents different development and hazard profiles. Urban ARK will also work in Dakar in Senegal and Mombasa in Kenya.  

City level research teams and stakeholders, including city planners, community groups and businesses, will define key gaps in data, understanding and capacity. Much of the research and project outputs will be in French as well as English. 

Encouraging collaboration

The Urban ARK website aims to develop a community of practice with international research communities and related research projects.

Urban ARK's principal investigator, Mark Pelling, says the programme needs to learn from practitioners, citizens and researchers who are working on reducing urban risk: "If you have time and capacity we invite you to join our city science and stakeholder meetings, to apply for our visiting researcher fellowships and for places in our intensive training workshops. 

"For those unable to participate directly, we welcome your reactions, thoughts, cries and celebrations on our website, our Twitter site, and community of practice pages.”

Urban ARK, led by Kings College London, is a partnership of 12 policy and academic organisations. The partners are Abdou Moumouni University, the African Population and Health Research Center, Arup International Development, International Alert, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Mzuzu University, UN-Habitat, Save the Children, the Development Planning Unit at University College London, the University of Cape Town and the University of IbadanThe website was developed by and is hosted by IIED.


David Satterthwaite (, co-investigator, Urban ARK and senior fellow in IIED's Human Settlements Group

David Dodman (, co-investigator, and acting head, IIED's Human Settlements Group

Mark Pelling (, principal investigator, Urban ARK, and professor of geography, Kings College London

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