Prof Julio D Davila

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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. My research focuses on the role of local government in progressive social and political transformation in developing countries; the governance dimensions of urban and peri-urban infrastructure (transport, and water & sanitation); the intersection between planning and urban informality; and linkages between rapid urbanisation and health.

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 a PhD examiner in several countries. I have had an advisory role in a number of institutions, including Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Medellín campus), Children Change Colombia (a UK-based charity) and Homeless International (now called Reall, also a UK-based charity). 

Prior to UCL, I was a research fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London and Buenos Aires, 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

Current projects include: inter-disciplinary research on urban zoonotic diseases in Nairobi; the social impacts of transport investments in Barranquilla (Colombia); and the equity dimensions of public bicycles in Latin American cities. Recent research includes an ESRC-DFID funded project on links between mobility, poverty reduction, social inclusion and urban integration in urban interventions in Medellin, Colombia, and a cross-Faculty UCL Lancet Commission cities and health 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 (follow links to download) include:
Selected 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

Cities as innovation: towards a new understanding of population growth, social inequality and urban sustainability 2016 Davila JD
Participatory mapping for transformation: multiple visual representation of foodscapes and environment in informal settlements in Nairobi 2015 Ahmed S,Haklay ME,Allen A,Tacoli C,Simiyu E,Davila J
Topic guide: Building reciprocal rural-urban linkages through infrastructure investment and development 2015 Allen AE,Davila J,Hofmann P,Brown D
Urban fragmentation, 'good governance' and the emergence of the competitive city 2014 Davila JD
Aerial cable-cars in Medellin: Social inclusion and reduced emissions. Annex: Case study from selected cities 2013 Davila JD,Daste D
Urban Mobility and Poverty: Lessons from Medellin and Soacha, Colombia 2013 Davila JD
Bogotá 2012 Davila JD
Poverty, participation and aerial cable-cars: A case study of Medellin 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
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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
Promoting equity, accessibility and social inclusion through bicycles in Latin America
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
Transport investment and well-being: An analysis of Transmetro and urban policies in Barranquilla, Colombia
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
Water & sanitation: Challenges and lessons in rapidly urbanising countries