Urban resilience past, present and future: celebrating David Satterthwaite


IIED celebrated the achievements of David Satterthwaite and reflected on what has been learned from his decades of experience in urban development at a special event on 14 May.

Last updated 19 May 2024
David Satterthwaite

David Satterthwaite, pictured in Delhi

A distinguished panel of speakers from around the world came together to reflect on what has been learned from decades of experience working in urban development.

The discussion celebrated the achievements of David Satterthwaite, an esteemed researcher for IIED, professor, author, co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and recipient of the Volvo Environment Prize who has dedicated more than 50 years to delivering positive change in informal settlements and climate change adaptation.

Attendees explored David’s influence and contributions through his research and teaching, his work at IIED and with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and his engagement with federations of the urban poor.

Agenda and speakers

A full agenda, including detailed biographies of the speakers, is available to download (PDF).


Lucy Earle, director of IIED's Human Settlements research group; Tom Bigg, director of strategy and learning, IIED

David's time at IIED and Environment & Urbanization

Lucy Earle (moderator); Diana Mitlin (recording), professor of global urbanisation, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester; Cecilia Tacoli, IIED senior associate; Sheridan Bartlett, formerly managing editor and then co-editor of Environment and Urbanization

This session brought together three long-term collaborators of David’s during his decades at IIED:. They reflected on how, with David, they have generated new urban research agendas and carved out space to ensure the experience and knowledge of Southern partners are shaping key debates, including through the E&U journal.

David’s contribution to shaping generations of urban practitioners

Alexandre Apsan Frediani (moderator), IIED principal researcher; Pascale Hofmann, associate professor at the Development Planning Unit, UCL; Donald Brown, associate professor in the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London; Edgardo Bilsky, former director of research of United Cities and Local Governments; Gautam Bhan, associate dean, School of Human Development at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements

David's work and ethics have been inspiring generations of urban development practitioners. His publications and his commitment to grassroots processes, knowledge and practices have played a key role in encouraging sensitivities, methodologies and ways of working with those working in NGOs, governments, academia, donor agencies and beyond. 

This session reflected on how David has contributed to shaping the formation of practitioners. The different speakers shared stories as well as testimonials on how David's work and pedagogical approach have been used in higher education teaching environments and processes of training and capacity development.

David’s work with the IPCC

David Dodman (moderator), general director of IHS, Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam; Debra Roberts, IPCC co-chair of Working Group II for the sixth assessment cycle, Mark Pelling, professor in risk and disaster reduction at the Institute of Risk and Disaster Reduction, University College London; Aromar Revi, founding director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS)

Since 2001, David  has been a major driver of the urban agenda in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Generations of climate change scientists have been influenced by his knowledge and analysis of how cities and their residents are affected by climate change, and how they should be involved in tackling this crisis. 

This session – involving several of David’s longstanding IPCC colleagues – explored the ongoing need for the IPCC and other climate processes to take cities seriously, how this is taking place, and the influence of David in this process.

Partnerships with grassroots organisations and federations of the urban poor

Anna Walnycki (moderator), IIED principal researcher; Somsook Boonyabancha, chair of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights; Joseph Muturi, president of the Global Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network; Jorgelina Hardoy, geographer, coordinator and senior researcher at IIED – América Latina; Sheela Patel, founder and director of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) India

This panel reflected on their experiences of working with grassroots organisations and federations to address the upgrading/housing/basic service needs at scale in cities in low- and middle-income nations over the last 30 years. Looking to the future, how might we increase the scale, scope and effectiveness of this work, not least in light of current and future risks posed by climate change? What priorities should be

Closing remarks

David Satterthwaite

Event coverage

You can watch a recording of the event below or on IIED's YouTube channel, where individual links to the start of each main session are also provided.

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Juliette Tunstall (juliette.tunstall@iied.org), internal engagement and external events officer at IIED