Research Lines for PhD and Post-doctoral Researchers in the field of Urban Land, Water and Natural Resources

Land is a natural resource that is fundamental to how cities work. All over the world, it is a critical instrument to help policymakers and urban managers achieve their goals of economic productivity, equity and environmental sustainability. Conversely, land-based challenges are at the root of some of the most pressing concerns facing local governments and their business and civil society partners, including: local economic development; strategic and physical planning; enabling social housing and poverty reduction measures; providing infrastructure and basic services; and managing the urban environment.

Land management is a theater of partnerships and conflicts, as public, private and civil society actors all maneuver to obtain land for their own purposes. The land team at IHS adopts a governance approach to understand the outcomes of those partnerships and conflicts. A working definition of land governance is “the process by which decisions are made regarding the access to and use of land, the manner in which those decisions are implemented, and the way that conflicting interests in land are reconciled” (GLTN/FAO/Un-Habitat). In this context, we are interested in the legal structures and decision-making processes concerning access to land and its use, the implementation of such decisions, as well as institutions and stakeholder management and the way all of the above can shape the development of a city.

At IHS, we approach land governance from three different perspectives, which are organized as “clusters” in our education and research components:

  • Cluster 1: Land rights, land tenure and legal frameworks
  • Cluster 2: Land markets and finance
  • Cluster 3: Sustainable use and management of urban land, water and natural resources in urban and peri-urban areas

Research lines related to land, water, and natural resources

At the Urban Land Governance group, the Cluster 3 on land, water and natural resources (LWNR) welcomes PhD and post-doc research applications that fit within the following research lines, which are focal areas for the Cluster.

Research line 1: Governance and the rule of law: governing land and water integration

Better integration between land and water management, as a basis for more resilient urban development, is often stymied by institutional turf battles, bureaucracy, and lack of political will—in addition to the lack of basic awareness of the need for an integrated approach. Research is needed that investigates the multi-faceted institutional and governance challenges to urban resilience. Possible sub-topics in this domain include changing institutions and institutional roles and governmental competences; coordination of different authorities in water management; and the role of property rights in adaptation (link to ULG Clusters 1 on legal issues and Cluster 2 on land markets).

Research line 2: Land-based financial tools for adaptation

How to finance urban adaptation is a growing concern for cities worldwide. An underexplored aspect refers to the possibility of land-based finance tools to support (or restrict) the implementation of green-blue objectives.  Questions in this domain include the following: How are tools like land readjustment, value capture or transfer of development rights being implemented in adaptation processes? What are their limitations? How can they be, or should they be, scaled-up?

Research line 3: Compensation and natural disasters

A large number of private assets—both in the formal and informal sectors—are being impacted worldwide by natural disasters, including floods and droughts. These natural disasters are exacerbated by poor land use policy and inadequate land management. Particularly in the context of informal urbanization, it is a challenge to define responsibility for damage and impacts and the availability or not of compensation to private actors. Questions in this domain include the following: How are people affected by natural disasters being compensated?  How are public or private compensation and public insurance evolving?  What are the implications for our valuation methods? How to guarantee the financial sustainability of disaster-prone areas?

Research line 4: Heritage and the Environment

While we look towards the future, it is necessary to increase our awareness about the past and the many ways in which this past still shapes the future.  In the Cluster 3 on LWNR, we consider “heritage” to comprise landscapes and traditions, i.e., how have humans co-existed with water and natural resources in a way that we now define as “resilient”? And what are the implications of this knowledge for current practice, including land-use and planning practice?  How can heritage (including physical systems as well as intangible constructs as identity) be used as a strategy for building back better and promoting social cohesion when rebuilding after disasters?

In the above-mentioned research lines, we invite PhD and post-doc researchers to contribute to building a consistent body of knowledge, including focusing on engaging with theory and developing case studies, to analyze in depth the constraints and successes that can be used to create more systematic know-how in integrated land, water, and natural resources.