International Advisory Committee

IIHS has an International Advisory Committee (IAC) that provides advice and guidance on the development of IIHS as a leading institution integrating teaching, research and practice rooted in the realities of South Asia and the Global South. The IAC assists in fostering a culture of excellence, innovation and inclusion across IIHS’ Academic, Research and Practice programmes and in mentoring IIHS faculty; deepening its size, capacities and global and local engagement. It consists of internationally renowned urban scholars working on urbanisation issues in developing countries that provide guidance and oversight to IIHS’ programmes.

Bish Sanyal

Ford International Professor of Urban Development and Planning, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT


Bish Sanyal is the Ford International Professor of Urban Development and Planning and Director of the Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS)/ Hubert Humphrey program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served as Head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT from 1994 to 2002 and was the chair of the MIT faculty from 2007 to 2009. Prof. Sanyal was awarded MIT’s prestigious award for teaching – the MacVicar Faculty Award in 2011. Prof. Sanyal’s research, teaching and academic leadership reflect his multidisciplinary education in Architecture (B.A.), Urban Planning (MUP), and International Development Planning (PhD).


After joining MIT, Prof. Sanyal has served as a consultant for UNDP, ILO, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, United Nations Centre for Regional Development, USAID, IADB, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. In addition, Prof Sanyal has advised national governments on housing policies and planning education in South Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. At present, Prof. Sanyal is advising the World Bank on a new initiative to evaluate the World Bank’s impact on influencing urban growth in developing countries.


He recently completed a $10-million research project to create a comprehensive initiative on technology evaluation (CITE) at MIT. Prof. Sanyal is currently engaged in completing two book manuscripts, titled Hidden Successes: Good Bureaucratic Performance in Developing Nations and Transfer of Planning Ideas: Why Some Work While Others Fail. In addition, he is working on a book on the History of International Development Planning Education in U.S. universities.



University College London, Professor of Transformative Urban Planning, Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Professor Caren Levy is Professor of Transformative Urban Planning at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), Faculty of the Built Environment, University College London (UCL) and former Director of the DPU. She is an urban development planner with over 30 years’ experience in teaching, research, training and consultancy. She works on planning, community-led development and governance with a focus on housing, infrastructure and transport, and land management in urban areas in the Global South. She has a special interest in the institutionalisation of social justice in policy and planning, particularly related to the crosscutting issues of gender, diversity and the environment. Strongly linked to practice, she also explores and develops innovative approaches to planning methodology, planning education and capacity building, and mainstreaming social justice in organisational development. She works in London and in a range of cities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East with communities, governments and international organisations.



Devesh Kapur

Starr Foundation Professor of South Asian Studies and Director of Asia Programs, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University


Devesh Kapur is Director of the Asia Programme at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C. From 2006 to 2018, he was the Director of CASI, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, and held the Madan Lal Sobti Chair for the Study of Contemporary India. Prior to that, he has been Associate Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Frederick Danziger Associate Professor of Government at Harvard University.


His research focuses on human capital, national and international public institutions, and the ways in which local-global linkages, especially international migration and international institutions, affect political and economic change in developing countries, especially India. His book ‘Diaspora, Democracy and Development: The Impact of International Migration from India’, published by Princeton University Press in 2010, earned him a Distinguished Book Award from the International Studies Association. His recent books include ‘The Other One Percent: Indians in America’, (co-authored with Nirvikar Singh, and Sanjoy Chakravorty), and published in 2016 by Oxford University Press; The ‘Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in India’, (co-edited with Milan Vaishnav) and published in 2018 by Oxford University Press; and ‘Regulation in India: Design, Capacity, Performance’ (co-edited with Madhav Khosla), Hart Studies in Comparative Public Law, published in 2019.



Director, African Centre for Cities (ACC) and South African Research Chair in Urban Policy, University of Cape Town


Professor Edgar Pieterse is an urban scholar, writer, curator and creative agent whose interests include the theory and practice of policy discourses and interventions to make the African city more just, open and accessible. He holds the South African Research Chair in Urban Policy at the University of Cape Town and is Director of the African Centre for Cities. Formerly a special policy advisor to the premier of the Western Cape, Professor Pieterse is the author of City Futures: Confronting the Crisis of Urban Development (2008), and New Urban Worlds: Inhabiting Dissonant Times (2017), co-authored with A M Simone. He is also co-editor of Africa’s Urban Revolution (2014) and Rogue Urbanism: Emergent African Cities (2013). He is a member of the Research Advisory Committees of the Gauteng City-region Observatory and LSE Cities. He was co-lead author of the Urban Chapter for the International Panel on Social Progress.



Director of International Affairs, Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy; Professor & Director of International Affairs, The New School for Public Engagement, New York


Michael Cohen is an urban and development policy specialist currently serving as Director of International Affairs at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy and Professor & Director of International Affairs at the New School for Public Engagement. He teaches courses on smart cities and urban values, the urban century, slums and urban development and urban strategies.


He worked at the World Bank from 1972 to 1999 and was responsible for much of the Bank’s urban policy development during that period. From 1994–1998, he served as the Senior Advisor to the Bank’s Vice-President for Environmentally Sustainable Development.


Prof Cohen has worked in 55 countries and was involved in the World Bank’s work on infrastructure, environment, and sustainable development. He has published several books on urban development, central Africa, and the impact of development assistance. Prof Cohen has advised governments, NGOs, and academic institutions around the world. He was a member of the Infrastructure Panel and Urban Dynamics Panel of the US National Academy of Science. He has helped the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN–Habitat) prepare its Global Report on Human Settlements in 2005–2012. He received his PhD in Political Economy from University of Chicago.



Professor of Urban Design and Planning at Graduate School of Design, Harvard University


Prof Rahul Mehrotra has been a founding member of the IIHS Board since 2008. He is a practicing architect, urban designer, and educator. His Mumbai-based firm, RMA Architects was founded in 1990 and has designed and executed projects including government and private institutions, corporate workplaces, private homes, and unsolicited projects driven by the firm’s commitment to advocacy in the city of Mumbai.


Mehrotra has written and lectured extensively on issues to do with architecture, conservation, and urban planning and design in Mumbai and India. He has coauthored Conserving an Image Center: The Fort Precinct in Bombay. Based on this study and its recommendations, the historic Fort District in Mumbai was declared a conservation precinct in 1995 – a first such designation in India. In 2018 he co-curated exhibition titled: The State of Housing: Realities, Aspirations and imaginaries in India which showed between Jan and March 2018 and will travel in India.


Mehrotra is a member of the steering committee of the Laxmi Mittal South Asia Institute at Harvard. In 2012-2015, he led a Harvard University-wide research project with Professor Diana Eck, called The Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Mega City. This work was published as a book in 2014. This research was extended in 2017 in the form of a book titled Does Permanence Matter? This research was also extended into an invited exhibition at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Mehrotra’s latest co-authored book is titled Taj Mahal: Multiple Narratives which was published in Dec 2017.



Director, Cities Alliance


William (Billy) Cobbett is Director of the Cities Alliance, a global partnership promoting the role of cities in sustainable development. Under his leadership, the Cities Alliance is internationally recognized for the diversity of its membership, and its role if sharpening policy makers focus on urban poverty and informality, including in secondary cities.


Prior to joining the Cities Alliance Cobbett was acting Chief of the Shelter Branch at UN-Habitat in Nairobi, where he designed and launched the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure. In South Africa Billy managed Planact, the leading urban NGO providing support to civic organisations and trades unions, from 1988 to 1992. After the unbanning of political organisations, he moved to ANC headquarters in 1992, representing the ANC on the National Housing Forum (NHF). Prior to the 1994 elections, he represented the ANC on the Transitional Executive Council (TEC). In the Government of National Unity under President Nelson Mandela, Cobbett was appointed Director General of the National Department of Housing, reporting to Minister Joe Slovo.


He has a History degree from Middlesex University, London.  He is co-editor with Robin Cohen of Popular Struggles in South Africa, Review of African Political Economy, 1988.