Aromar is an international expert on Sustainable Development; Co-Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), from where he helped lead a successful global campaign for an urban Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 11) as part of the UN’s 2030 development agenda.
He is a member of the Ubuntu Advisory Board of the UCLG President. UCLG is the global voice of local and regional governments, representing 0.24 million towns, cities, metropolises and regions. He is a member of UN-Habitat’ Stakeholder Advisory Group tasked with global stakeholder engagement (2019-21). Aromar is a former member of the Managing Board of Cities Alliance, the global partnership for sustainable cities and urban poverty reduction.
Aromar is Commissioner of the Lancet Pathfinders Commission that will identify and communicate global, regional and local pathways to a healthy, low carbon future. He is also a member of the Task Force on Global Health Diplomacy and Cooperation of Lancet COVID-19 Commission, that will make recommendations on strengthening global governance and multilateral cooperation to build back better, paying particular attention to global health governance and science diplomacy.
Aromar’ policy, practice and research work lie at the interface of sustainability science and climate science; and the emerging discipline of ‘urban science’ that he is helping define internationally. He was a member of the UCL- Nature Sustainability Expert Panel on science and the future of Cities that issued its 2018 report on the global state of the urban science-policy interface. He is Co-PI on two significant international urban research programmes that will help define the future of urban science (PEAK) and responses to urban inequality (KNOW) bringing together leading universities and researchers from four continents.
In 2016, UNSDSN and the SDG Academy launched the first 66-session global Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Sustainable Cities and SDG 11, curated by him, featuring 30 of the world’s leading urbanists. Over 33,000 participants from 150 countries have registered for this. This was launched on EdX in January 2019.
Aromar has made significant contributions to human settlements development in India, for which he was elected an Ashoka Fellow in 1990. This includes a key role in designing India’s national public housing programmes, that facilitate the building of over 2 million rural houses a year; infrastructure planning, upgrading and institutional reform in multiple million-plus cities. Aromar has served on high-level committees of the Government of India and was responsible for the development of housing and urban development plans for two-thirds of India’s states in the 1990s.
Aromar is one of the world’s leading experts on global environmental change, especially climate change. He is a Coordinating Lead Author (CLA) of the 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C (SR15). He has worked extensively to bring the global urban and climate agendas together, including as a coordinating lead author of the SR1.5 Summary for Urban Policymakers, released at CoP24 in Poland in 2018 and the Summary for Financial Decisionmakers in 2020.
He is a CLA of the synthesis chapter on Climate Resilient Development Pathways of the IPCC Working Group Assessment Report 6 on Adaptation, to be released in 2021. He is also a member of the Core Writing Team (CWT) of AR6 Synthesis Report that will be released in 2022. He was earlier a CLA of the IPCC Assessment Report 5 chapter on Urban Areas, that established the role of cities and regions in addressing climate risks in 2014. He was a co-PI of a large five-year international Climate Adaptation research programme (ASSAR) that spanned India and eight countries in Africa, that explored mechanisms to take climate adaptation to scale in semi-arid regions.
He is one of South Asia’s most experienced risk and disaster management professionals having led teams to plan & execute rehabilitation programmes for ten major earthquake, cyclone and flood events affecting over 5 million people and has been on the Advisory Board of UNDRR’s Scientific & Technical Advisory Group (STAG) and its bi-annual Global Assessment of Risk, since 2008. Aromar has led the design for UNDRR of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) a global partnership to promote the resilience of infrastructure systems to climate and disaster risks that was launched at the Climate Action Summit 2019 in New York.
Aromar has led and managed multiple international and national multi-stakeholder political and development negotiations. In 2020 he led a special XV Finance Commission report on The Potential of Urbanisation to Accelerate Post-COVID Economic Recovery that defined a $300 billion package of strategic measures and priorities at national, state and regional levels to enable the process of urbanisation to accelerate post-COVID economic recovery, addressing 450 million people in about 8,000 urban areas over 2021-31. In 2014, he assisted the Govt. of India in the partition of the erstwhile state Andhra Pradesh, with a population of 85 million people. Aromar led a complex process of structuring a $ 75 billion investment plan for infrastructure and development across all districts and cities for the successor state of 50 million; helped identify options for a new state capital and conducted stakeholder negotiations and public consultations across the state.
Aromar is also an internationally cited scholar across multiple fields: urban (#6), climate adaptation (#5), infrastructure (#8), sustainable development (#25), and public policy (#58). He’s the Editor of the interdisciplinary international journal Urbanisation (Sage) and on the editorial Boards of Nature Sustainable Earth (Springer), npj Urban Sustainability (Springer), the International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development (Taylor & Francis) and Urban Climate (Elsevier).
He is a member of the international advisory Board of the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town. He is also a member of the External Advisory Board of the India China Institute (ICI) at the New School University.
He has been a senior advisor to multiple ministries of the Government of India, since the late 1980s; and consulted with international development institutions, national and transnational firms on economic, environmental and social change at global, regional and urban scales. This includes UN, multilateral and bilateral agencies: UNDP, UNICEF, UNEP, UN Habitat, UNDRR, UNU; World Bank, ADB, DFID, CIDA, SIDA, SDC, NORAD, GiZ, IDRC and AusAID.
Over the last decade, Aromar has delivered over 275 keynote addresses, speeches, and seminars and made public, TV and radio appearances, across the world. He has addressed special sessions of the UN Open Working Group on the SDGs, the 71st UN General Assembly on the New Urban Agenda on Sustainable Cities, in 2014 and 2017. He has lectured and taught at over 95 (9 of the top-10) leading Universities, across all six continents.
Aromar has led 125 major practice, consulting and research assignments in India and internationally; has deep governance, institutional development, management and implementation experience, across public, private and academic institutions; has published over 115 peer reviewed publications and books; lectured and taught at over 90 of the world’s leading Universities and think tanks across 6 continents; has travelled extensively to over 60 countries, including 19 of the G-20; helped structure, design & review development investments of over $ 8 billion; worked on 5 of the world’s 10 largest cities; across urban and rural areas in all of India’s 29 states and on multiple international projects across over a dozen countries.