Turkey’s humanitarian policy

Since the end of the Cold War, the global political, economic and social context has been going through significant changes. These changes bring challenges along with opportunities. Situated at the center of a geography where massive transformations take place intensively, Turkey is directly affected by these dynamics. Powered by its growing means and capabilities, Turkey strives to effectively respond to today’s challenges, in a determined and principled manner, as a reliable and responsible actor guided by the dictum: “Peace at Home, Peace in the World.”

While aiming to enhance its ties and cooperation with all partners for peace, security, stability and prosperity, Turkey pursues an enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy and takes concrete initiatives to promote stability and prosperity in its region and beyond.

Drawing from its own experiences, Turkey is an ardent advocate of international solidarity and partnership with a view to building a safer world, saving human lives and protecting the environment, through a sustainable and collective strategy.  Turkey’s humanitarian assistance has been diversified and significantly increased in recent years. In 2017, according to the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report, Turkey ranks as the largest donor country world-wide with its 8 billion US Dollars humanitarian assistance. Turkey also ranks first when the ratio of official humanitarian assistance to national income is taken into consideration. Furthermore, the Turkish Red Crescent Society and numerous Turkish NGOs are also very active on a global scale.

Turkey’s humanitarian contributions are not confined to bilateral assistance projects. In order to assist further and to offer guidance to UN’s humanitarian efforts, Turkey became a member of the OCHA Donor Support Group, which brings together leading donors. The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit was held Istanbul on 23-24 May 2016 and was attended by 9000 participants from 180 Member States, including 55 Heads of State and Government. The Summit served as a unique platform for the global community to address the alarming challenges of the humanitarian system and announce commitments for sustainable solutions in order to improve the lives of millions of crisis-affected people. One of the key achievements of the Istanbul Summit was the recognition that the old debates on humanitarian and development divide should be transcended through a new way of working. In this context, all relevant actors should work together not only to meet needs, but to effectively reduce risks and vulnerabilities over time. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also provides a solid basis for this new framework. The combined use of humanitarian and development assistance programmes in a collective strategy has been the key of the Turkish humanitarian policy. On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Summit, Turkey also hosted a high-level anniversary event and the “Istanbul Workshop of New Way of  Working”, which is regarded as the most concrete outcome of the Summit and which aims at implementing humanitarian and development assistance in tandem where necessary.

More than two years have passed since the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul and the signing of the Commitment to Action by former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and nine UN Principals, endorsed by the World Bank. The Commitment to Action spelled out a New Way of Working towards “collective outcomes” that drive humanitarian and development actors to not only work better together, but to design their cooperation towards specific goals that reduce the needs, risks and vulnerabilities of people affected by crises. It is the notion of “collective outcomes” that holds the potential to bring the necessary capacities together to tackle drivers of need and accelerate development gains for the most vulnerable, particularly in protracted and recurrent crises.

The New Way of Working brings the humanitarian and development spheres closer together; support affected communities, address structural and economic impacts and help prevent a new spiral of fragility and instability. In the words of the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, humanitarian response, sustainable development and sustaining peace are three sides of the same triangle.

Development-oriented assistance constitutes the core of Turkey’s policies in its humanitarian response. Humanitarian crises are triggered as the negative impact of insufficient development, environmental issues, conflicts, poverty and lack of infrastructure. This vicious circle would be hard to break if there is a problem on the development side, which may also be the cause of conflicts resulting in refugee crises. In order to break such vicious circles, intervention with various tools is needed. Turkey intervenes at the request of the host country with humanitarian aids for emergency humanitarian relief and continues with development projects to support resilience, in tandem or simultaneously as appropriate.  These policies are always carried out in cooperation with authorities of the host country in need, taking into account its demands and the specific context of local conditions

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, in turn, reduces their need for humanitarian aid in the future. This approach has especially been very successful in sub-Saharan Africa. Turkey’s policy to assist Somalia can be regarded as an exemplary case. All segments of the Turkish society from public institutions to NGOs and private sector were mobilized to assist the people of Somalia following the severe famine in 2011. This process has gradually resulted in a comprehensive policy, comprising humanitarian, developmental as well as stabilization efforts in an integrated strategy.

The writer is ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in Kigali.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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