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Humanitarian diplomacy takes lead in Turkey’s foreign policy

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Visitors wait for the start of the Republic Day ceremony at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to mark the republic’s anniversary in Ankara yesterday. Reuters

Yesterday was the 95th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey and Ayda Unlu reminds that the country has been a leading actor in humanitarian diplomacy through its official development and humanitarian aid.

Situated at the center of a geography where massive transformations take place intensively, Turkey is directly affected by the changes in the global political, economic and social context, which bring about many challenges as well as opportunities.

Powered by its growing means and capabilities, Turkey strives to effectively respond to today’s challenges and to build upon the opportunities for greater good, in a determined and principled manner, as a reliable and responsible actor guided by the dictum: “Peace at Home, Peace in the World” in the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkey.

Turkey pursues an enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy, implementing concrete initiatives to promote peace, security, stability and prosperity in its region and beyond, taking into account the specific characteristics of all the regions and partners around her. In such endeavours, Turkey has a cooperation-oriented understanding based on mutual respect and a win-win approach, with the understanding that today’s global challenges can be most effectively countered through collective efforts and effective multilateralism.

As such, 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. In fact, the combined use of humanitarian and development assistance programs in a collective strategy has been the key element of Turkey’s humanitarian policy.

According to the OECD Development Assistance Committee, Turkey’s official development assistance (ODA) amounted to $8.142 billion in 2017, which made Turkey the leading country in the world. This amount corresponds to 0.95 percent of our GDP and continues to remain high above of UN target (0.7 percent). Humanitarian assistance has the biggest share in our ODA with an amount of $7.208 billion. Excluding humanitarian aid, around 20 percent of the Turkish ODA is delivered to LDCs.

The desire to assist humanitarian efforts at both bilateral and multilateral levels in line with its growing contributions as a leading donor country was a motivating factor for Turkey to host the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in May 2016. The Summit served as a unique platform for the global community to address complex and alarming challenges of the humanitarian system and announce commitments for sustainable solutions in order to improve the lives of millions of crisis-affected peoples. 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.

At the same time, Turkey continues to extend its support to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for a more equal, prosperous and peaceful world and to leave no one behind. Regrettably, we are still far from obtaining the ambitious goal in the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) for half of the LDCs to meet the criteria for graduation from this category, adopted at the 4th UN Conference on LDCs held in Istanbul in 2011.

As evidence of Turkey’s commitments to deepen its cooperation with the LDCs, the UN Technology Bank was inaugurated on June 4 in Gebze, Turkey. It is an important accomplishment in the implementation of the IPoA and signifies the achievement of the SDG target 17.8. Turkey has undertaken to provide the Bank $2 million annually from 2017 to 2021. We have also provided premises, initial installations, equipment as well as utilities necessary for its operation.

Another aspect of our humanitarian approach is Turkey’s 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 has spent $31 billion (including municipalities and Turkish NGOs), whereas the total contribution we received from the international community is far from meeting the expectations ($526 million internationally, plus 1.9 billion euros under FRIT from the first 3 billion euros pledged by the EU).

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 20,000.

Another humanitarian crisis in our region is the situation in Palestine. To protect the rights of Palestinians and to revive the Middle East peace process, Turkey urges the international community to act. With this understanding, as the chair of the Islamic Summit, we have convened two extraordinary Islamic Summits. Furthermore, to improve the humanitarian situation in Palestine, Turkey has been actively working to raise awareness to solve the financial crisis of UNRWA. In that respect, Turkey is doing its utmost in addressing the needs of UNRWA, while continuing its development assistance to Palestine.

Turkey also assumes active roles in prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts, including through mediation, and in fostering mutual respect and common values around the globe.

Turkey’s efforts to highlight the importance of mediation in prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts transcends into the multilateral sphere. In 2010, Turkey spearheaded, jointly with Finland, the “Mediation for Peace” initiative within the UN in order to raise awareness for mediation. The Group of “Friends of Mediation” formed within this framework has reached 56 members (48 states and 8 international/regional organizations). A similar group is co-chaired by Turkey-Finland-Switzerland at the OSCE.

As part of its leading role in the field of mediation, Turkey also hosts “Istanbul Conferences on Mediation”. The three conferences held in February 2012, April 2013 and June 2014 brought together representatives from various institutions, NGOs and experts. The 4th “Istanbul Conference on Mediation” was held on June 30, 2017 under the theme “Surge in Diplomacy, Action in Mediation”.

Turkey, as a summit chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), hosted the first ever OIC Member States Conference on Mediation on November 21, 2017 in Istanbul, with the theme, “Surge in Mediation: The Role of OIC”.

Prejudices and discrimination are not given at birth but are learned. These negative attitudes might turn into forms of hate speech and even violence. Respect for social diversity and inclusive societies are crucial in our challenging world. We need to stand up against all forms of intolerance, xenophobia, and discriminatory policies, including animosities against different religions.

The UN Alliance of Civilisations Initiative, co-sponsored by Turkey and Spain, (currently with 146 members) represents the strongest response to the scenarios of the so-called “Clash of Civilizations”. Thus, boosting this global initiative is essential, now more than ever, for strengthening the “immune system” of the world.

Turkey is motivated to pursue these and further avenues of action for it believes that the international community needs serious and concerted efforts to achieve sustainable development and social justice. Turkey is committed to shoulder its share of the burden in a multilateral framework. Towards this end, Turkey also strives to make sure that as the one truly global organisation, the United Nations undergoes the required transformation to be able to better respond to the challenges facing all of us.

Ayda Unlu, is ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the Kingdom of Cambodia.



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