Prof Adriana Allen

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The Development Planning Unit conducts world-leading research and postgraduate teaching that helps to build the capacity of national governments, local authorities, NGOs, aid agencies and businesses working towards socially just and sustainable development in the global south. We are part of The Bartlett: UCL's global faculty of the built environment.



Adriana Allen is Professor of Development Planning and Urban Sustainabilityat the The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL, where she leads the DPU Research Cluster on Environmental Justice, Urbanisation and Resilience (EJUR) and teaches in the MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD).

Originally trained as urban planner in Argentina, my native country, I specialised over the years in the fields of urban environmental planning and political ecology. I have over 25 years international experience in research and consultancy undertakings in almost 20 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Both as an academic and practitioner, my work focuses on the interface between development and environmental concerns in the urban context of the global south, and more specifically on fostering transformative links between environmental justice and urban sustainability and resilience.

Over the years, I have worked for several national and international organisations, including the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), UN-Habitat, WaterAid, Department for International Development (DFID/UK), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC), Plan Construction et Architecture du Ministere de l'Equipement (France), IberoAmerican Cooperation Institute (ICI / Spain), The European Commission (EC) and Directorate General for International Cooperation (DGIC, Belgium). In-country research, training and advisory assignments include: Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Tanzania, Uruguay and Venezuela. 

I am a Visiting Professor at various universities in Latin America and acted a beacon member for the 2006 IV World Water Forum cross-cutting perspective dealing with institutional development and political processes in water provision. I am also co-editor of the International Journal of Sustainable Urban Development and a regular reviewer for Urban Studies, Cities, Local Environment, Human Ecology and Natural Resources Forum, among other international academic journals.

Within UCL, I support a number a university-wide initiatives in the theme of urban sustainability and resilience, which include my role as the Environment Institute Co-Director for Sustainable Cities and member of UCL Grand Challenges of Sustainable Cities (GCSC) Executive Group. I was formerly the Urban Laboratory Co-director in ‘Social cohesion, urban infrastructure and the public realm and a member of the UCL-The Lancet Commission on Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change.

Research Summary

My research interests span across the following areas of intellectual inquiry:

Production, reproduction and transformation of urban environmental (in)justices
Through the articulation of an urban political ecology and regulation theory perspective, my work looks at the interface between insurgent practices and planned interventions and their capacity to generate transformative spaces, places and social relations.

Citizenship and the governance of service provision

Current gaps in service provision for the urban poor require more than technical solutions, my work in this area looks in particular at questions of hydric justice and the scope of service co-production to deliver not just improved access to basic services such as water and sanitation but above all to forge mechanisms for inclusive citizenship.

Resilience, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change

Calls for and actual responses to climate variability in the urban global south are prompting new debates on the way in which concomitant challenges are socially constructed by scientists, governments and citizens, who should respond to them and how and who is worst affected and why. Part of my current work examines these questions by focusing on the current gaps and potential synergy between grassroots and planning local responses that situate climate variability in the context of fast urbanisation and informality.

Rural-urban linkages for reciprocal urbanisation
The so-called ‘urban transitions’ faced by the global south today are underlined by emerging geographies of capitalist accumulation through unequal peri-urbanisation and truncated rural-urban linkages. My work in this area explores how and why such  geographies are increasingly being shaped under conditions of ‘differential sustainability’ or, in other words, by adjusting thresholds to meet the needs and wants of certain privileged social groups and territories at the expense of others.

Research outputs

Habitat and Habitus: the disjuncture between urbanisation and urbanites in African cities 2013 Allen AE,Castan Broto, V
Peri-urbanisation and the political ecology of differential sustainability 2013 Allen AE
Farmers, not gardeners: The making of environmentally just spaces in Accra 2013 Allen AE,Frediani AA
Trajectories of change: Land, Urbanisation and Urban Agriculture in Accra 2012 Allen AE,Von Bertrab E,Frediani A,Lambert R,Hofmann P,Wood-Hill M
From water poverty to water justice in the urban context: Challenges and transformative alternatives in Latin America 2012 Allen AE
Water provision for and by the peri-urban poor: Public-community partnerships or citizens co-production? 2012 Allen A
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Metabolism 2012 Castán Broto V,Allen AE,Rapoport E
Future Proofing Cities: Risks and opportunities for inclusive growth in developing countries 2012 Allen AE,Castan Broto V,Godfrey N,Savage R
Activating the right to water in the Americas 2012 Allen AE
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Metabolism 2012 Broto VC,Allen A,Rapoport E
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Research activities

Adaptation to climate change in cities: Looking at Dhaka from the built environment perspective
Cities, Decoupling and Urban Infrastructures
Climate variability, water risk and its management in Bolivia’s Altiplano development strategy
Consolidation of existing knowledge on the peri-urban interface
Ecological and economic zoning in the PUI of fast changing frontiers in the Amazon Region, Brazil
Environmental management and planning of the peri-urban interface
Epidemiology, ecology and socio-economics of disease emergence in peri-urban Nairobi
Future Proofing Cities: Risks and opportunities for inclusive growth in developing countries
Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS)
Justice in the Green
Mapping beyond the palimpsest
Moving down the ladder: Governance and sanitation that works for the urban poor
Neoliberal restructuring at work in the urban South: The production and re-production of scarcity and vulnerability in the Argentine fisheries sector
Participatory action planning in the peri-urban context of Hubli-Dharward, India
Rural-Urban Transformations and Wastewater Management
Rural-urban linkages for poverty reduction and reciprocal urbanisation
Service provision governance in the peri-urban interface of metropolitan areas
Small town water and sanitation delivery: Taking a wider view
Sustainable urbanisation. Bridging the green and brown agendas
The heuristics of mapping urban environmental change
The wider context of rural-urban linkages
Thinking across boundaries - revisiting the notion of the 'urban global south'
Urban Metabolism at UCL
Urban water poverty halfway through the Decade of Water for Life
Urbanisation Research Nigeria