Case Study - Urban Planning in the Global South

Infrastructure governance and planning for the urban poor in the Global South

Today, almost half of the world's population live in urban areas. In the Global South, the failure of existing infrastructure and basic services to meet the demands of rapid urbanisation has serious consequences for the residents of low-income and unplanned areas.

Through a series of action-research projects on urban infrastructure, UCL's Development Planning Unit (DPU) has responded to this problem by generating practical tools and methods to support development practice, designing training curricula for practitioners in urban infrastructure services, and providing expert advice for institutions and governments.

The research underpinning these advances has included work by Professor Julio Davila on affordable and efficient transport as a fundamental requirement of poor residents in urban areas. Professor Davila's research included analysis of the provision by progressive local governments of improved access for excluded low-income populations to transport infrastructure such as the world's first modern urban aerial cable-car system in Medellin, Colombia. Professor Davila's research explored the extent to which the development of this system had achieved the deliberate goal of reversing the conventional practice of providing low-quality services to the poor, and the effect of doing this.

This research attracted widespread interest from governments and media alike. Officials in Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Cuba requested copies of the final reports and the researchers' book, and Professor Davila was interviewed for TV and radio in Colombia and Mexico. The book has been accessed extensively on the project website and incorporated into international policy-making guides for pro-poor urban upgrading. This demonstrates the enthusiasm among policy makers and researchers for understanding the potential economic, social and transport impacts of such systems, as well as their recognition that urban sustainability requires cities to provide a greater diversity of energy-efficient, low-emission transport with low environmental impact in order to reduce inequalities.