Setting an Example: Turkey’s Humanitarian Role

This session mainly discussed Turkey’s current position as a leading humanitarian actor in the international arena. Turkey, as a rising power, has been playing a crucial role in the humanitarian field in the last 15 years, presenting new strategies for humanitarian activism around the world. In 2017, the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report ranked Turkey as the world’s second largest humanitarian donor after the U.S. and the world’s most generous nation compared to its gross national income. As such, this session discussed how Turkey has reached this position and the potential challenges it faces.

The main point made in the discussion was that although Turkey has shouldered a significant part of the financial burden in relation to the refugee crisis, the international community, particularly the EU, has not been involved in burden sharing. One of the main speakers listed the Turkish humanitarian aid in numbers. According to the figures, Turkey has spent 25 to 30 billion USD for Syrian refugees so far, while the EU had pledged to pay Turkey 3.4 billion USD as part of the refugee deal made in 2016. The aid was to be used for projects that would increase the quality of life for the refugees living in Turkey. Yet, there has been little to no progress on provisions in the agreement since the money under the deal has been delivered partially and at a slow pace. Therefore, the EU has abstained from complying with the refugee deal and Western countries are indifferent towards most of the humanitarian crises’ around the world. As mentioned by another speaker who also has experience in the field, this attitude can be seen in the latest Myanmar tragedy, disregarded by many developed countries, Turkey was first to extend its helping hand to the region and its people, once again highlighting the country’s prominence in humanitarian aid.

The analysis of the Turkish model demonstrated several distinct features of Turkey’s aid campaigns. Firstly, Turkey’s approach is a human-centred one and its actions are not based on any calculation of political interest but the stability of the region and wellbeing of the people; hence, Turkey’s priority is the survival of the people facing humanitarian crises. Secondly, Turkey’s understanding of humanitarian diplomacy places human beings at the centre, irrespective of their nationality, religion or ethnicity. Thirdly, the Turkish model provides a comprehensive and inclusive framework within which both state and non-state agencies like NGOs, charities, businesses and civil society organizations take an active part in an organized manner. Finally, the success of the Turkish model comes from the fact that it does not impose politics on people and does not interfere in countries’ decision-making processes, but rather focuses on supporting the lives of people.