Noragric & NorCross Seminar

Noragric & NorCross Collaborative Seminar Series: “Humanitarian Policy and Practice in a Changing Climate”
Time: Friday 27 November 2015, 09.00-10.30
Venue: Henry Dunant-salen, Røde Kors Konferansesenter, Hausmannsgate 7, Oslo



- Dr. Lutgart Lenaerts, Noragric, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Post-Doctoral Researcher

- Dr. Bente Pretlove, DNV GL, Programme Director Climate Change

- Paul Mbole, Norwegian Church Aid, Programme Coordinator Kenya

- Dr. Trond Vedeld, Norwegian Institute for Regional and Urban Research (NIBR), Senior Researcher

- David Smith, Department of Urban Design and Planning at NTNU.


The objective of the seminar series is to encourage researcher-practitioner-policy dialogue, in order to enhance understanding of the long-term implications of humanitarian interventions for efforts to build long-term resilience and sustainable adaptation to climate change, identify concrete lessons for humanitarian interventions, and build capacity within humanitarian research and action.

Climate change and rapid urban sprawl represent new challenges for the prevention of humanitarian crises. More than one billion people currently live in urban informal settlements and slum areas, which commonly lack proper physical, social and economic infrastructure such as robust houses, roads, water and sanitation facilities, hospitals and schools. Urban informal settlements are often located on marginal lands that are particularly exposed to natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods and landslides. The vulnerability of people living in urban informal areas is further heightened by high unemployment rates, the need for cash to meet basic needs in urban markets, and inadequate, unstable or risky asset bases. The population in urban informal settlements commonly consist of domestic or foreign migrants, whom often have insecure residential status, and lack ownership to land and access to public services such as health care. Moreover, health risks such as epidemics can become concentrated in densely-packed cities where populations expand beyond the capacity of the public health system. It is therefore no surprise that when disasters occur in cities – it is often the people living in informal settlements and slum areas that suffer the most.

Climate change is expected to exacerbate existing climate-related hazards, with potentially disastrous implications for slum dwellers in the developing world. Climate-related disasters account for the bulk of the increase in the number of disasters recorded since the 1980s. Slow-onset disasters like drought and environmental degradation are also affecting more people and an increasing number of areas are exposed to recurring disasters. Urban informal settlements in developing countries may thereby represent future “disaster hotspots”, and efforts to reduce disaster risks need to incorporate an explicit awareness of climate change issues.

Humanitarian and development organizations are commonly more accustomed to working in rural areas, and engaging in urban informal settlements presents a number of specific challenges. Identifying beneficiaries and their needs, conducting vulnerability and capacity assessments, coordinating with other agencies, safety concerns, physical accessibility, and tackling the size and extent of the problems faced by slum dwellers are just some of the most common challenges cited by NGOs. Furthermore, domestic policies and legal issues influence the ability of humanitarian and development organizations to provide assistance to these populations. We will in this seminar discuss how to overcome these and other practical challenges, and draw on opportunities of reducing vulnerability in urban informal settlements.

How can humanitarian and development organizations contribute to reducing disaster risk and vulnerability to climate change in urban informal settlements?


About the speakers:

Dr. Lutgart Lenaerts has a background in both forestry/natural resource management and development studies. Although working as an academic, she does NGO-work in her spare time. Over the last couple of years she has done research on the interface between climate change adaptation and humanitarian interventions in Ethiopia. She is currently leading the “Courting Catastrophe? Humanitarian Policy and Practice in a Changing Climate” project at Noragric, NMBU.


Dr. Bente Pretlove is the Programme Director for Climate Change at DNV GL Strategic Research and Innovation.  She is a member of the Board for the Climate Change research program “Klimaforsk” at the Norwegian Research Council and a member of the Transdisciplinary Advisory Board (TAB) for JPI Climate.  She represents DNV GL in the Climate and Energy leadership group of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).  Bente is also the Project Director for DNV GLs strategic partnership with UNEP to support the implementation of a Climate Technology Centre and Network under the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism. Bente has an academic background in Chemical & Bioprocess Engineering and a Ph.D. in Environmental system analysis and cleaner production. She has also attended the DNV GL executive technology program, Top Tech, at University of California Berkeley.


Dr. Trond Vedeld has more than 30 years of international experience, and has worked on urban governance and climate change and flooding issues in African cities for 10 years. He has specialized in analysis of state-society relationships, public administration/governance, social and institutional analysis related to urbanization, climate change, and natural resources management. Vedeld has also been team leader of large-scale research/international programs in Africa (Sahel/East Africa/South) and Asia/India, and worked 3 ½ years with the Fragile States, Conflict & Social Development Unit in the World Bank (2006-2009); in part as Disaster risk management coordinator/team leader for Sub-Sahara Africa working on disasters and complex catastrophic events e.g. (e.g. in Mali, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Senegal).


David Smith is a PhD candidate in post-disaster urban resilience at the Department of Urban Design and Planning at NTNU. He is an accredited architect in Canada (OAQ) and worked for three years in architecture in Montréal prior to moving to Norway.  He graduated in 2011 at Oxford Brookes University in England on the Master in Development and Emergency Practice, whose thesis has been shortlisted for the RIBA President’s Award for Research in 2012.


The seminar is free and open to everyone. Coffee, tea and pastries will be served. Please register by sending an e-mail to:


Published 8. November 2016 - 11:52 - Updated 10. October 2019 - 12:35