Onur Ozlu

Student spotlight details

Onur has been using knowledge gained on the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development course since graduation.

‘As a senior economist at the World Bank’s urban global practice, I have been working on fiscal and functional decentralization in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. In this task, I support developing countries in designing and managing their national local governance and urbanization programs. On the MSc program, I was able to develop an appreciation for the multitude of opportunities and challenges of urbanization from a city and local government perspective. Fortunately, thanks to the possibilities presented at my work, I have been able to incorporate almost all of these perspectives into the design and implementation of my programs.

'My understanding of citizen participation and the right to the city, for instance, was tremendously enhanced on the MSc and consequently, I was able to make these two concepts key design features of the of local and city governance projects in Tunisia, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya. In Tunisia, following the revolution, the new constitution decentralized most functions away from the central government to urban local governments. Within the design and implementation of the World Bank’s support to the national urban local governance program in Tunisia which I lead, we were able to ensure citizen participation in local government planning and budgeting. In order to access the financial support of the program, all 264 urban local governments in Tunisia have abided by six minimum conditions, one of which is having participatory annual investment budgeting and local development planning. In a country where citizens have almost no voice in governance, this will help increase accountability and the sustainability of local infrastructure built. I was able to ensure that similar approaches are adopted in the national programs in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, supported by the World Bank.

'Another key aspect which I took away from the MSc is the inevitability of climate change and the association between urbanization and the environment. I have been fortunate enough to be able to incorporate various aspects of the ‘financing sustainability’, ‘smart urbanism’ and ‘climate change and the built environment’ modules of the MSc into my work in this area: First, following the MSc, I helped raise $1 million trust fund resources from the Korean Green Growth Trust Fund to valuate ecosystem goods and services which surround the rapidly expanding cities in Africa. This work, which is now under implementation, is valuating urban natural capital and interventions that alter the urban ecosystem in Kampala (Uganda), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Durban (South Africa) mainly by deploying the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) methodology, which I came to learn and understand on the MSc.

'We hope that this initiative, by valuing natural urban environmental assets, will help decision makers see that urban environmental degradation in rapid urbanizing contexts has significant downstream financial implications. Secondly, following the MSc, as part of the Tanzania strategic cities project which I lead, we were able to focus our support on cities’ efforts to widen their revenue base and increase their collection rate to increase their own source revenues, and to enhance their ability to finance sustainable urban practices. Even in the brief past two years, we saw a significant increase in own source revenues of cities. Additionally, I am in the process of raising trust funds from C20 resources, to help Arusha (the second largest city in Tanzania) develop a low-carbon, resilient city master-plan, which will largely be financed by the significantly increased own source revenues of the city.

'Lastly, but by no means least, another key area of the MSc which I use in my work is the notion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) not being a measure of welfare. GDP is like air for an economist (such as myself) and is an important economic measure. Through research on critical academic research and literature I was exposed to during the MSc, I became aware that this measure is being used as a panacea to measure welfare (rather than only economic growth); and the inaccuracies of this. Thanks to this exposure, I am much better equipped to steer discussions both within the Bank and with governments on the critical need for the use of additional welfare indicators.'

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