From the Archives: Building a Sustainable Future through Urban Governance with Dr Sophie Webber


With two megacities and strong economic growth, Indonesia has seen dramatic rates of rural-urban migrations. According to the World Bank, nearly 70 percent of Indonesia's population are expected to live in cities by 2045. While this transition has undoubtedly boosted the country's economic growth, it has also brought to the fore all the challenges that come with rapid and uncontrolled urbanisation. From traffic congestion to informal settlements, lack of clean water and waste management services, and widespread flooding, Indonesia's cities suffer significant human and economic costs, and are now highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

In 2020, Dr Sophie Webber spoke with Dr Natali Pearson about urban governance, and how urban resilience is being rolled out as a policy solution for cities such as Jakarta and Semarang in Indonesia, that are trying to adapt to the many shocks and stresses associated with urbanisation and climate change.

About Sophie Webber:

Dr Sophie Webber is a human geographer, who conducts research about the political economies of climate change and international development assistance, principally in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. In particular, Sophie studies how 'truth' (knowledge claims and expertise), 'capital' (financial flows and investments), and policy packages structure relations between the minority and majority worlds. Methodologically, this research requires relational fieldwork, examining how climatological and developmental crises and problems are interpreted, storied, and managed, both by local and governmental authorities, as well as by distant international experts such as the World Bank. In 2020, Sophie was awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) to investigate the social, economic and environmental impacts of large-scale sand and water extraction to build protective infrastructure in vulnerable cities. Through a qualitative study of climate change hotspots in Indonesia and Fiji, this project will generate new knowledge about the potentials and limits of urban resilience infrastructure to protect cities against climate change.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website:

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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