Prof Julio D Davila

UCL Home

The Development Planning Unit conducts world-leading research and postgraduate teaching that helps to build the capacity of national governments, local authorities, NGOs, aid agencies and businesses working towards socially just and sustainable development in the global south. We are part of The Bartlett: UCL's global faculty of the built environment.



Julio D Dávila is Professor of Urban Policy and International Development, and Director of  the Development Planning Unit, UCL.

Twitter: @DavilaJulio
A civil engineer and urban development planner, I have over 25 years’ international experience in research and consultancy projects in 15 countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. As an academic interested in practice, in recent years my work has focused on the role that local governments in cities of the Global South can play in social and political transformation. Much of my teaching arises from my research interests. I explore how infrastructure can help shape people’s lives and its links with development. In my research I have also examined the importance for development of understanding urbanisation processes, rural-urban linkages and the potential embodied in the peri-urban interface.

In DPU, I have been a director of the MPhil/PhD Programme, the MSc Urban Development Planning and the MSc Development Administration and Planning, as well as Director of Studies and editor of DPUNEWS. I have taught at the London School of Economics and the University of Cape Town, have lectured in several universities around the world, and have been an external examiner of PhD dissertations in half a dozen universities in the UK, France, Holland, Italy, Spain and Egypt. I have collaborated on an advisory capacity with a number of institutions, including Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Medellín campus), Children of the Andes (a UK-based charity) and Homeless International (also a UK-based charity).

Prior to joining UCL, for six years I was a research fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London and Buenos Aires, where I worked on a number of research projects in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, under the leadership of the late Argentinian urbanist and historian, Dr Jorge E Hardoy. In 1988 at IIED I co-founded the journal Environment and Urbanization, currently published by Sage, and one of the most influential and widely quoted international journals in the urban field.

As a young graduate civil engineer in my native Colombia, I worked as a planner and researcher at the National Planning Agency (Departamento Nacional de Planeación), where I contributed my knowledge on self-help housing in Bogotá to the country’s first National Housing Plan.

You can listen to Julio talking about critical challenges facing cities of the Global South.

Research Summary

My current research interests are: role of local government in progressive social and political transformation in the Global South; governance dimensions of urban and peri-urban infrastructure, especially public transport, and water & sanitation; intersection between planning and urban informality; and linkages between rapid urbanisation and health.

I am currently involved in an inter-disciplinary research on urban zoonotic diseases in Nairobi. Recent research includes an ESRC-DFID funded project on the links between mobility, poverty reduction, social inclusion and urban integration in urban interventions in Medellin, Colombia. And a cross-Faculty UCL Lancet Commission synthesis of current knowledge on how the built environment influences health outcomes leading to a co-authored article in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet.

For an updated and complete list of publications, follow links to Research outputs on the left. My books include:
Other outputs:


I run DPU's Doctoral Seminar series and provide teaching inputs in the following modules:
  • Industrialisation and infrastructure (MSc Development Administration & Planning)
  • Urban Health (MSc Global Health)
  • Transport in Emerging Countries (MSc Transport & City Planning)

Research outputs

Urban fragmentation, 'good governance' and the emergence of the competitive city 2014 Davila JD
Medellin's aerial cable-cars: Social inclusion and reduced emissions 2013 Davila JD,Daste D
Urban Mobility and Poverty: Lessons from Medellin and Soacha, Colombia 2013 Davila JD
The politics of (im)mobility and the decision to restrict rickshaw circulation in Dhaka, Bangladesh 2012 Hasan MM,Davila JD
La gobernanza del transporte público urbano: Indagaciones alrededor de los Metrocables de Medellín 2012 Davila JD,Brand P
Nuevos transportes y movilidad urbana 2012 Davila JD
Poverty, participation and aerial cable-cars: A case study of Medellin 2012 Davila JD
Bogotá 2012 Davila JD
Healthy communities 2012 Rydin Y,Davila JD,Davies M,Hallal P,Hamilton I,Lai KM,Wilkinson P
Shaping cities for health: complexity and the planning of urban environments in the 21st century 2012 Rydin Y,Bleahu A,Davies M,Davila JD,Friel S,de Grandis G,Groce N,Hamilton I,Hallal P,Howden-Chapman P,Lai K,Lim C,Martins J,Osrin D,Ridley I,Scott I,Taylor M,Wilkinson P,Wilson J
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 next

Research activities

Consolidation of existing knowledge on the peri-urban interface
Cuba: an alternative transport model?
Ecological and economic zoning in the PUI of fast changing frontiers in the Amazon Region, Brazil
Environmental management and planning of the peri-urban interface
Epidemiology, ecology and socio-economics of disease emergence in peri-urban Nairobi
Evaluation of EU-funded programme
Housing and land for the urban poor. Case studies of Bogotá-Soacha and Medellín
Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS)
Local governance, urban mobility and poverty reduction. Lessons from Medellín, Colombia
Rapid spatial planning for investment in urban services
Service provision governance in the peri-urban interface of metropolitan areas
Shaping cities for health: The complexity of planning urban environments in the 21st Century
Sustainable urbanisation. Bridging the green and brown agendas
The challenge of regional development in a poor oil-producing region
The role of municipal mayors in municipal development - Colombia
The scale and nature of urban change in Colombia
The wider context of rural-urban linkages
Urban infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa – harnessing land values, housing and transport
Urban poverty and rural-urban linkages in Mozambique
Urban poverty reduction programmes: The private sector in Cali, Colombia
Urbanisation Research Nigeria: Urban transport
Water & sanitation: Challenges and lessons in rapidly urbanising countries