Paul Rabé

Job title
Senior Land Expert, IHS Erasmus University Rotterdam, Head of Cities Programs, IIAS

Paul Rabé is Senior Land Expert and Head of the Urban Land Governance specialization at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), which is part of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Paul is also attached to the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) at Leiden University, where he coordinates the Institute’s cities programs.  

Paul is a political scientist by training, with a doctoral degree in policy, planning and development from the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy (2009).  He has over 25 years of experience in advisory work, capacity building and research in urban land governance topics, particularly land management and access to land. He has worked on advisory projects in Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans, on a range of land instruments and policies related to housing, planning, poverty reduction, and the environment. 

Land and Water

Paul’s current work and research focus on the intersection of land policy and the management of water resources in urban and peri-urban areas.  This “land and water” initiative is one of three main clusters within the Urban Land Governance specialization at IHS. It consists of a three-week specialization within the Urban Management and Development Master’s degree course, with inputs by partners from the Flood Resilience Group of the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education. In addition, “land and water” has been the subject of several short staff training courses that Paul has organized, jointly with IHE’s Flood Resilience Group and regional partners, for cities and central government agencies in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia) from 2012 to the present. 

Urban Research Networks

At IIAS, Paul is Series Editor of the “Asian Cities” book series of IIAS and Amsterdam University Press. He coordinates the Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA), which brings together scholars and practitioners from a range of universities and institutes in India, China, East Asia, Southeast Asia and Europe to produce policy-relevant knowledge on urbanization in Asia.  Paul is also the joint coordinator of the Southeast Asia Neighborhoods Network (SEANNET), which is a network of researchers (funded by the Henry Luce Foundation in New York). SEANNET supports the development of contextualized knowledge on the neighborhood level in Southeast Asian cities. The program seeks to provide an “alternative epistemology of the city”: it attempts to unearth new knowledge about cities in Southeast Asia by re-assessing them through the methodological lens of what happens at the micro urban level.  Six historic neighborhoods were selected as SEANNET case studies, in five countries: Mandalay in Myanmar; Chiang Mai and Bangkok in Thailand; Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam; Manila in the Philippines; and Surabaya in Indonesia.

Heritage and the Environment 

Paul’s interest in the heritage and environment theme is to clarify and broaden the relevance and value-added of combining two large research areas, in scholarship as well as practice.

The relevance of a heritage approach for the environment is that a more in-depth understanding of heritage and history can help societies design better for the future – whether we are talking about engineering solutions like dyke systems or more nature-based, hybrid solutions. And the relevance of a focus on environment for heritage is to broaden the notion of heritage beyond solely a focus on monuments to an understanding of landscapes – and to appreciate the vital role that humans have had, in the form of built structures and systems, cultures and traditions (i.e. tangible and intangible heritage), in shaping landscapes throughout history.

The value-added of integrating heritage and environment is to help foster an appreciation for the fluidity of elements shaping our landscapes – i.e. the interplay between land and water, for instance, or society and economy – and to use this appreciation to help break down disciplinary barriers in academia and bureaucratic barriers in policy. The ultimate objective, then, is to achieve more in-depth knowledge of man-made and natural systems and more informed policy vis-à-vis these systems.


Paul Rabe
Phone number
010 4082344
Email address