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As more than half of the Asian population is now living in urban areas, we must take the opportunity to act to address the challenges arising from rapid, inequitable and un-managed development and unsustainable levels of consumption.

Photo: Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

SEI Asia’s urban research seeks to find solutions to help cities and towns achieve an equitable, inclusive and sustainable development pathway, with respect to the Sustainable Development Goal 11 (as well as SDG 3 and 12) and international commitments including the Paris Agreement and Sendai Framework.

Supporting cities and towns to become equitable, resilient, healthy and livable, requires integrated, cross-sectoral action from all stakeholders – from knowledge sharing and capacity building to co-developing solutions and implementing them together on the ground. Our collaborative research aims to bring in innovative ideas that can inform policy makers, private sector and civil society on sustainable urban development practices.

Areas of work and projects

A central theme across all our work is ensuring that urban areas promote inclusion and equity whilst fostering environmental sustainability. Our projects are centred around three key impact areas, with many of our projects overlapping across these areas:

  • Improved health and wellbeing in urban centres
  • Ensuring sustainable consumption and production in urban areas
  • Building more resilient and inclusive urban communities

Some of our projects are outlined below.

City Health and Wellbeing (CHeW)

This SEI initiative focuses on the city of Udon Thani in North East Thailand and Nakuru in Kenya. By working with local communities to understand their interactions with the urban environment, and by engaging with the municipalities, we seek to understand how to achieve more equitable urban development whilst delivering more liveable and environmentally sustainable cities.

Towards inclusive urban waste systems: integrating informal waste workers for a circular economy

This research project focuses on the informal waste economy in Bangkok, with a particular look at plastic recycling. We are investigating the contribution of informal waste collectors in promoting recycling in the city, and also examining household consumption and waste generation behaviour and the role of waste dealers, using a range of methodologies.

The impact of air pollution on the world of work for women and youth in East and South East Asia

This study reviews the existing evidence and knowledge about how air pollution affects workers both directly and indirectly. We will carry out case studies, in order to identify evidence-based recommendations to improve air quality alongside the quality and quantity of employment in a context of just transitions towards a low carbon economy.

Transdisciplinary research towards SDG achievements on air pollution
In this research collaboration with Chulalongkorn University, we are studying air pollution incidence and exposure at the local district level. SEI will be assessing the exposure of local outdoor workers, their awareness of air pollution, and their health, in order to inform policy dialogues about tackling air pollution with local decision-makers.

Other projects which the urban cluster is engaged in include:

  • Advancing inclusive and resilient development targeted at the urban poor
  • Implementing subregional clean air and climate solutions in ASEAN
  • Identifying the gaps in sustainable garment manufacturing supply chain (India-Europe collaboration)
  • Studying the transition to circular economy for enterprises in South East Asia​
  • Entrepreneurial urbanisation and masculine identities in Khon Kaen, Thailand