Dr Supriya Akerkar

LLB (Mumbai University), MA Development Studies (Institute of Social Studies, Hague), PhD (Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne)

Director, Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP)

School of Architecture

Supriya Akerkar


Dr Supriya Akerkar has been working in the field of development and emergencies for the last 20 years. She has worked with International development organisations, social movements and civil society campaigns in Global South, on issues of gender,  social equity and building inclusive societies.  Her work focusses on furthering rights of women, gender and sexual minorities, older people and people with disabilities, displaced groups affected by disasters and emergencies, and indigenous people. She has a under graduate degree in law, and a Masters in Development Studies from Institute of Social Studies, Hague. She also has a PhD from Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne following her PhD thesis titled: The production of rights in disasters in Uttar Pradesh, India: Implications for theory and Practice. 

She has received the Brookes Research Excellence Award in 2022 for research titled Ageing in Displacement, exploring the intersectionality of gender, ageing and displacement processes in relation to older refugees in UK. 

Her policy paper on Gender and Older People (February 2022) developed for the Programme and Ageing Unit (PAU), United Nation Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), New York has been used to develop guidance for the governments to further the wellbeing of older people through the UN office. 

Her research publications explore marginalisation processes, gender, and rights in the context of disasters and displacements of persons affected by emergencies.

Her applied research work includes working with non-governmental and civil society organisations to influence practices through critical research. In 2019-20, she conducted research with HelpAge International titled National Platforms for Ageing: A review of their formations, approaches, advocacy practices and learnings, learnings from which was used to develop guidance on how to form and sustain National Platform of Older People for advocacy of rights of older people.

She was the principle research investigator for Oxford Brookes University for the project ADCAP (Age and Disability Capacity Project) (2014-2018),  led by a consortium of International development organisations, coordinated by HelpAge International and funded by the UK Government and US AID/OFDA. Dr Akerkar has tracked real time evidence based learnings over the project period and has developed Good Practice Guide for enabling inclusion of older people and people with disabilities in humanitarian responses. She was also a review team member for ADCAP Humanitarian Inclusion Standards for older people and people with disabilities. ADCAP is a consortium of seven international development organisations; Help Age international, IFRC, Handicap International, CBM, Disaster ready, RedR, and Oxford Brookes University. 

In her earlier work, prior to joining CENDEP in 2012, she has worked on socially inclusive humanitarian and disaster response and risk reduction practices, and rights based advocacy. 

She was a senior researcher with the Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne ( 2007 - 2011) - on the EU supported FP6 project titled MICRODIS, evaluating social and gendered impacts of disasters in different country contexts; and in particular in UK and India. 

Based in Addis Ababa, she was the Advocacy and Policy Leader for Action Aid International Ethiopia (Dec 2006-August 2007) leading research and advocacy on themes of women's rights, education rights, livelihoods and food security, and just governance in Ethiopia. Between 2000-2007, Supriya has led the work of Action Aid International in different countries: leading Action Aid India's Gujarat earthquake rehabilitation and communal violence healing work; Indigenous people's rights in Orissa; mainstreaming women's rights in humanitarian interventions in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and Somalia following the tsunami in 2004. 

She has worked with the DFID India as the social development expert (1998-2000), and guided the policy and practice of DFID supported livelihoods/natural resource development projects to meet its social equity objectives.

As a policy researcher on sustainable development issues, whilst working with the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, India (1995 -1998), she has also lobbied at intergovernmental forums such as Rio+5 at New York, Conference of Parties for Desertification Convention, working closely with the INGOs involved in global south. As a social activist (1988-1994) she worked with social movements on furthering land and forest rights of indigenous people.  

Teaching and supervision

Modules taught

I have designed, teach and lead two modules for MA Development and Emergency Practice, CENDEP:

  • Critical inquiry in development and emergency practice: theory and policy
  • Disasters, risks, vulnerability and climate change.

Research Students

Name Thesis title Completed
Sherin Al shaikhahmed Leadership of youth with disabilities in the context of Humanitarian-Development Nexus Active
Grace Khawams Assessing job readiness among Lebanese and Palestinian refugee youth with intellectual disabilities in Lebanon: An Action Research Framework Active
Kate McAuliff Deaf Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon: a conceptual framework of agency and double displacement Active
Catalina Morales Maya Inclusive building, neighbourhood design and actual space performance in the context of urban spaces, UK Active


The key thematic areas of my research interest and experience are: Rights, social inclusion and resilience building with age, disability, gender, displaced people and other identities as intersecting themes in the contexts of protracted and humanitarian crisis, and disasters.  

My research is applied, inter-disciplinary and crosses boundaries between development studies, geography, gender studies, law and built environment. My current research projects and publications include new contributions on gender, age and disability sensitive humanitarian practices, rights of displaced people, furthering social equity, disaster risk reduction and resilience building practices with a focus on global south, and in particular South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa.

The application of my research is to improve the operational practice of humanitarian and disaster response, risk reduction and resilience building with a focus on socially marginalised groups.  My past and current linkages with social action groups, International and National NGOs in the global south give me a good platform to disseminate my research findings, and advocate for changes in policies and practices.

Research interests and expertise

  • Enabling Social Inclusion: Gender, Age, Disability and marginalised identities in Development and humanitarian contexts
  • Human rights, emergencies and disasters with a focus on marginalised groups such as refugees, internally displaced people, migrants and urban poor 
  • Post- humanitarian crisis/disaster recovery and reconstruction work using comparative case studies or scenarios from different countries
  • Development-Humanitarian nexus and linkages  

Research group membership

  • Fellow, The Higher Education Academy, UK
  • Technical Working Group Member, Humanitarian Innovation Fund, ELRHA for Older people and People with Disabilities, UK
  • Member, Gender and Disaster Network
  • Member, UKADR (UK alliance for Disaster Research)

Research grants and awards

  • Brookes Research Excellence Award: Ageing in Displacement (PI for the project)
  • British Academy Award "The Contribution of Urban Community Gardens to Inclusive and Sustainable Local Environments" (CoI for the project)
  • DFID funded Age and Disability Capacity Project (PI for the project)


Projects as Principal Investigator, or Lead Academic if project is led by another Institution

  • Navigating Networks in Multiple Displacement: Connecting formal and informal education and livelihood assistance for Internally Displaced Persons in Southern Ethiopia (20/01/2023 - 19/01/2026), funded by: Gerda Henkel Stiftung, funding amount received by Brookes: £109,980


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Professional information


  • Panelist speaker, presented paper Tackling persistent exclusion of older people and people with disabilities in humanitarian responses: Towards the critical capacity building of humanitarian organisations, paper presented at the DWD-UKADR-DRG-UKCDR Conference 17th-19th July 2019; University of Northumbria, Newcastle, UK
  • Invited Expert, UN DESA office organized expert group meeting on older people in emergencies, New York , 15-17 May, 2019; presented paper 'Mapping of existing normative frameworks and guidelines relevant to older people in conflict and disasters: Implications for policy and practice’; see https://www.un.org/development/desa/ageing/meetings-and-workshops-2/emergency-crises.html
  • Panelist speaker on age anddisability inclusion in disasters for the session Root Causes: Social Inequality and vulnerability in Disaster, 8th-11th July 2018, 43rd Annual Conf Natural Hazards Centre, Boulder, Uni of Colorado
  • Panelist speaker intersectionality of gender, disability, age in emergencies European Development Days, Brussels 6/6/2018
  • Keynote Social inclusion (gender, age and disability) in disasters, University of Leicester, 26th March, 2018
  • Keynote Disability in Humanitarian Responses, 13th March, 2018, organized by Human Rights Festival, OBU
  • Presentation on ‘Challenges on making invisible visible: Age and Disability Inclusion in humanitarian responses’, 29th June 2016, organized by CENDEP,  Oxford Brookes University, in Oxford
  • Presentation on ‘Mainstreaming gender, age and disability in humanitarian response’ in Conference organised by UCL, London and Tohoku University, Japan on 23rd October 2015 in London
  • Presentation on “Gender mainstreaming of early warning information during disasters: learning from best practices” to the Serbian Ministry on Environment and Agriculture in Belgrade on 28th May 2015, on invitation by OSCE (EU led Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe) mission to Serbia.
  • Presentation on ‘Trust, emergent learning and building of communities of practice: Learning from Drought and DRR’at the 3rd world conference in Sendai Japan, in parallel conference session hosted by University of Leicester and Kansai University, 16th March 2015
  • Conference session on ‘best practices in gender mainstreaming in disaster response’, in Manila, Philippines 24th-25th November,2014 on invitation by Wilton Park (foreign office of Government of UK), organised by Wilton Park and ADPC
  • Presentation on ‘Disasters, vulnerability reduction and rights’ for the conference “Human rights in Asia”, organised by University of Essex, UK, 31st May 2012
  • Presentation on ‘Disaster Cultures and Human Rights in India’ in the Dealing with Disasters    conference co-organised by Northumbria University, Glamorgan University and Sunderland University on 23rd-24th November 2010 held at Newcastle.
  • Presentation on “local entitlements, reciprocity and disaster recovery” in the Asian MICRODIS conference organised at Hue, Vietnam by the Hue University on 25th-27th August 2010.
  • Presentation on “social impacts of Tewekesbury floods”, in the conference organised by the National Flood Forum, UK in Birmingham on 25 February 2010
  • Invited discussant  on Gender and Climate Change in the conference organised by the Institute of Development Studies, UK in June 2007