Turkey’s Enterprising and Humanitarian Dilomacy

Turkish foreign policy is guided by the dictum: “Peace at Home, Peace in the World’’, pursuing an enterprising and humanitarian vision, which has a worldwide view of all the regions and partners around her. Turkey takes concrete initiatives to promote stability and prosperity in its region and beyond.

Humanitarian diplomacy is an indispensable aspect of Turkish foreign policy. Turkey has been a leading actor in humanitarian diplomacy with its focus on the human cause and through its official development and humanitarian aid.  Furthermore, the Turkish Red Crescent Society and numerous Turkish NGOs are also very active on a global scale.

According to the OECD Development Assistance Committee, Turkey’s official development assistance (ODA) amounted to USD 8.142 billion in 2017. Humanitarian assistance has the biggest share in our ODA with an amount of USD 7.208 billion. Turkey was the biggest humanitarian aid donor worldwide in 2017 and the most generous donor when the ratio of official humanitarian assistance to national income (0.85%) is taken into consideration

For instance, Turkey has been pursuing an open door policy for Syrians who had to flee their country in the past seven years due to ongoing violence. Over 3.5 million Syrians are currently hosted in Turkey. Around 230,000 of them live in one of 21 temporary protection centers.

Turkey maintains its position as the biggest host country according to the UN Refugee Agency figures. More than 600 thousand Syrian children continue their education in Turkey. The schooling rate among Syrian children in the age of primary education is 97 percent. Furthermore, the number of Syrian teenagers studying in Turkish universities is over 20 thousand.

Turkey hosted the first ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in May 2016. 9,000 participants from 180 Member States, including 55 Heads of State and Government came together in İstanbul. The Summit helped better address today’s complex humanitarian challenges served as a unique platform for the global community to announce commitments for sustainable solutions in order to improve the lives of millions of crisis-affected people.

One of the key achievements of the WHS was the recognition that the old debates on humanitarian and development divide should be overcome through a new way of working. The New Way of Working recognizes that the primary goal of humanitarian action is to provide life-saving assistance and protection in line with the humanitarian principles, but that, especially in protracted crises, humanitarian assistance should be designed in a way that helps build a bridge between short-term assistance and medium-term outcomes.

In this context, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the WHS, Turkey hosted a high level event and a New Way of Working Workshop in İstanbul on 18-19 May 2017, which aimed at further unifying and strengthening collective efforts to assist the people in need.

The combined use of humanitarian and development tools turn out to be cost effective for donors in the longer run as affected countries become more resilient increasing their level of development, thanks to development aids on basic infrastructure, human and institutional capacity-building.

This development assistance enables affected countries to resist to such humanitarian shocks, which in turn would reduce their need of humanitarian aids in the future.

Africa is at the center of Turkey’s global vision of humanitarian diplomacy. Turkey has increased the number of its embassies from 12 in 2002 to currently 41 to deepen its relations in all fields, being an observer and a strategic partner of the African Union.

In fact, the combined use of humanitarian and development assistance programmes in a collective strategy has been has especially visible in sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, Turkey’s engagement in Somalia is a textbook example of this development-oriented humanitarian assistance.

Since the historic visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2011, all segments of the Turkish society from public institutions to NGOs and private sector were mobilized to assist the people of Somalia. This process has gradually resulted in a comprehensive policy, comprising humanitarian, developmental as well as stabilization efforts in an integrated strategy.

Several projects were put into action which consisted of human and institutional capacity building, construction of essential infrastructure, providing services such as education, sanitation and health etc. while humanitarian aids such as delivering food and medicine continued. These policies are always carried out in cooperation with authorities of the host country in need, taking into account the demand of the Somali people.

Today, the Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu is responsible for the overall coordination of the myriad of Turkish institutions operating throughout Somalia. Turkish public, private and civil society sectors are quite active in Somalia. Turkey’s overriding goal is to help the brotherly country of Somalia achieve peace and stability.

Turkey believes that achieving global justice and prosperity in an equitable manner is key for a peaceful and stable world. With this understanding, Turkey employs enterprising and humanitarian foreign and development policy. It goes without saying that for these good causes a global solidarity and burden-sharing is of utmost importance.

By Olgan Bekar, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the Federal Republic of Somalia