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International Development, Emergencies and Refugee Studies Group

The group carries out research in international development, emergency theory and practice and refugee studies

LSBU emerged as a top modern university in London after 73% of its research was given the two highest ratings for 'impact' (reach and significance) - Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. Three quarters of our research into Social Work and Social Policy was awarded a top quality rating of 3* for 'environment' - "conducive to producing research of internationally excellent quality, in terms of its vitality and sustainability".

Research themes

There are a number of main themes to the work of the International Development, Emergencies and Refugee Studies (IDEARS) research group:

Informal Economies

With a large majority of the urban poor now subsisting as self-employed 'micro-entrepreneurs', we researched a number of key theoretical and practical issues, aimed at supporting the design and implementation of urban management programmes and debating social and spatial justice; informing the development of international and national-level policies on financial inclusion, economic inclusion and legal empowerment; enhancing understanding of the impacts of international trade, in particular value chains in the China-Africa trade; deepening understanding of the links between the formal and informal economies; and of links between urban micro-enterprise and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Key to this research area was an ESRC-funded study into urban politics and participatory planning in South Africa (1998-2000), a DFID-funded study into the role of social capital in urban livelihood development in Senegal, Ghana and Kenya (2000-2002; 2005), which, in addition to academic publications also provided a handbook for local authorities on market formalisation; and an EU-funded study of the role of the informal sector in Tanzania and the impact of evictions upon it (2007-2008); a DFID/ESRC-funded study, undertaken jointly with colleagues from Cardiff University, on the legislative and regulatory barriers to street-trade and the informal mechanisms for dispute resolution.

Dr Antonia Noussia

Developmental Urbanism

The urban 'tipping point' of 2007, at which city-dwellers outnumbered their rural counterparts, widened an already forceful debate about the global impact of urbanisation. But this debate has been dominated by concepts that fail to account for the realities of urban life in developing countries, where the most rapid and profound change is taking place. This research strand addresses the interplay between urban experience and development practice to consider new ways of imagining, designing, and constructing the built environment.

Urban areas in developing countries are often characterised by informal patterns of survival and settlement. Dr Barac is currently working with the African Urbanism colloquium (2009-11), a theory-building initiative of the University of Cape Town's African Centre for Cities, to generate analytical tools more relevant to these spatial and social dynamics. Drawing its members from a community of urban scholars, professionals and artists who either live in or work on Africa, the interdisciplinary group aims to go beyond a paradigm of development in which poorer countries are always caught trying to 'catch up' with their wealthier northern cousins. It is argued that cultural and professional practices better suited to local conditions are essential if we are to address the challenge of making urbanisation developmental.

Disasters and Emergencies

Publications: Lyons, M. and Schilderman, T (2010) 'Building Back Better: Delivering People-centred Housing Reconstruction at Scale'. Practical Action Publishing. In a context of rapidly rising number and frequency of natural disasters, both major and minor, and a rapid rise in the numbers of people affected by them, particularly in developing countries and increasingly in cities, this strand examined the potential for emergency response and subsequent recovery activities to reduce disaster vulnerability and contribute to poverty reduction.

Key themes in the research included the roles of national-level policies and institutions, the strengths and weaknesses of competing approaches to procurement, the potential and barriers to participatory development, productive and unproductive participatory strategies, rural versus urban contexts. Research was undertaken with the support of a range of partners, including World Jewish Relief, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Shelter Centre and the Centre for Disaster and Emergency Practice at Oxford-Brookes University and our research partners, Practical Action.

In March 2009 the group hosted an international conference at LSBU, Delivering Participatory Reconstruction to Scale, and in March 2010 published a book of this title.

Financial Inclusion

This work developed in partnership with the University of Dar es Salaam and the Bank of Tanzania begun in 2007 with a survey of access to micro-finance services by poor micro-entrepreneurs. It then broadened to include comparative in-depth analysis of the role of micro-finance in facilitating innovation in a range of economic growth sectors and countries; and on international debates concerning regulatory reform of the sector.

Post-conflict Reconstruction, Women and War

Professor Kibreab is currently undertaking research on Women and War of National Liberation Struggles with particular emphasis on Eritrea. The aims are to: (1) document succinctly the roles women played in the different national liberation struggles in Africa and what happened to them once the shooting stopped; (2) present an overview of gender relations in traditional Eritrean society; (3) examine the extent to which the thirty years' war of national liberation effected changes and transformations in gender relations; an (4) critically evaluate the extent to which 'liberation' has brought about greater equality between men and women and if not, to explain why this has not been the case. Although this is work still in progress, it has resulted in a number of publications and conference papers.

Leader: Prof. Gaim Kibreab

Published books

  • Kibreab, Gaim (2009) 'Eritrea: A Dream Deferred'. Oxford: James Currey an Imprint of Boydell and Brewer Ltd and Nordic African Institute, Uppsala, Sweden xxvi + 448
  • Kibreab, Gaim (2008) 'Critical Reflections on the Eritrean War of Independence: Social Capital, Associational Life, Religion, Ethnicity, and Sowing Seeds of Dictatorship' (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press) (in press) xvii + 450 pages

Forced Migration

Professor Kibreab is concurrently undertaking research on the problem of forced migration in post-independence Eritrea. He has published widely on pre-independence Eritrean refugees. When Eritrea became independent, there was an expectation that the drivers of refugee flights would come to an end and those who had fled in connection with the 30 years' war would 'vote with their feet' home wards in response to the fundamental political changes that had occurred when the external enemy was thrown out of the country and an independent state was born in May 1993. However, contrary to most people's expectation, not only did many of the pre-independence refugees in the neighbouring countries, especially Sudan stay put but also the independent state has been producing tens thousands of refugees.

In post-independence Eritrea, the single most important driver of forced migration has been the open-ended national service and its detrimental effects on the social fabric of Eritrean society and families. Tens of thousands of Eritrean men and women have been falling into the trap of ruthless human traffickers in eastern Sudan and the Sainai desert. One of the aims of this research project is to study the problem of human trafficking in post-independence Eritrea, eastern Sudan, Sinai and Israel.

Leader: Prof. Gaim Kibreab


  • Kibreab, Gaim (2013) 'The national service/Warsai-Yikealo Development Campaign and forced migration in post-independence Eritrea' Journal of Eastern African Studies, 2013 Vol. 7, No. 4, 630–649,
  • Kibreab, Gaim (2011) 'Forced Migration and Social Change: A Case Study of Eritrean Refugees in Sudan' Sudan Journal of Economic and Social Studies 9(1): 95-124
  • Kibreab, Gaim (2010) 'Climate change and human migration: a tenuous relationship?' Fordham Environmental Law Review 20 (2 &3): 357-402

Working papers

The IDEARS group regularly output working papers. These are listed and available for download in PDF format from our Working papers page.

Research degrees

Mphil/PhD students with the IDEARS group join a community of some 30 PhD students. They work in a wide range of disciplines and inter-disciplinary subjects and follow the course either full-time, part-time or by distance learning. In addition to excellent supervision from an individually appointed, internationally respected academic committee, students participate in MSc-level research methods and discipline-specific modules, as well as training days designed specifically for the ISSR PhD community.

For an informal discussion about your research interests please contact Prof. Ian Albery, Director of ISSR. Read more about Research degrees: ISSR Graduate School and find out more about how to apply for a Research Degree at LSBU.

Search our Course Finder for MSc opportunities in related areas of:

  • development studies
  • refugee studies
  • immigration and human rights
  • development and urbanisation


Prof. Gaim Kibreab
International Development, Emergencies and Refugees Studies Group (IDEARS)
London South Bank University
103 Borough Road
Tel: 020 7815 8072
Fax: 020 7815 7104