International Peace Institute Seminar on Humanitarian Engagement in Contemporary Complex Emergencies

Halit Çevik 18.04.2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished Guests,

First, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the International Peace Institute for giving me the opportunity to take part in this important event. I also would like to congratulate the IPI for dedicating a session to the emerging relief actors, which I believe will improve our understanding of the humanitarian space and the perspectives of different players in this field.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to divide my presentation into three main topics. First, I will address the basic characteristics of Turkey’s humanitarian activities and policies. Later, I will touch upon the opportunities presented by presence of emerging donors. Finally, I will speak about the relationship between the emerging donors and the traditional humanitarian actors.

One of the main characteristics of Turkey’s humanitarian aid, like many other emerging donors, is that the nature of relationship with the recipient is based on equality. Most of the emerging donors do not use a top-down approach. For Turkey, this is especially evident in the case of Somalia, in which Turkey’s assistance is provided without conditions and is not based on a donor-recipient relationship.

Secondly, Turkey’s assistance is based on principles of responsibility and conscience. Again, Somalia case is a good example of this policy. In a public campaign initiated by the Turkish Government in August 2011, Turkish people voluntarily donated more than 300 million dollars in a couple of months for assistance to Somali people. Furthermore, despite its ever-increasing burden, Turkey’s open door policy for Syrians is yet another example of our humanitarian assistance based on responsibility. Besides keeping its borders fully open, Turkey also provides exceptional living conditions to Syrians in the camps in all fields pertaining to daily life such as health, education and social needs.

Another aspect of our assistance policy is the combination of humanitarian and development assistance, without prioritizing either of the two. This approach is in fact the sustainability element of Turkey’s assistance policy. We believe that this element should be a key part of international humanitarian and development efforts, which brings a forward-looking vision on how to increase the capabilities and capacities of the countries while addressing emergencies. Our approach to Afghanistan is a good example to this perspective. The focus of our aid in Afghanistan is building the transportation and connectivity infrastructure, investing in education and health and helping strengthen the economy through agricultural programs. The fact that our aid and development cooperation extends beyond the current international assistance framework helps boost the legitimacy of our efforts. Likewise, Turkey’s assistance to Somalia presents a similar approach. Besides emergency assistance, Turkey undertakes developmental projects especially in the fields of infrastructure and basic services. Another dimension of Turkey’s assistance to Somalia is Turkish Airlines’ direct flights from İstanbul to Mogadishu. Although it may not be defined as assistance in the development terminology, Turkey uses this as an effective tool especially in Africa to enhance the connectivity of less-developed countries with the outside world.

Expansion of Turkey’s assistance also widens our diplomatic network. Turkey increased its number of Embassies in Africa from 12 to 34 in the last four years. This is mostly thanks to our assistance efforts, which have been instrumental in relaying the foundations of Turkey’s stronger and wider presence abroad.

Dynamism of Turkish civil society forms another aspect of our humanitarian assistance. In many emergency cases, Turkish NGOs start distributing aid to the population much before the Turkish official institutions. Turkish NGOs’ humanitarian activities in Mali, Niger and Somalia are good instances of this prompt response. This is thanks to the enormous network established between NGOs in Turkey and Turkish institutions and private sector that operate in countries where assistance is needed.

Another point is, Turkey does not include the overhead costs in reporting the amount of aid. For example, the amount pronounced as Turkey’s assistance to emergency situations such as in Afghanistan, Somalia or Syria is the amount of actual aid delivered.

There is one final point that needs to be taken into account in explaining Turkey’s approach to humanitarian and development assistance. Turkey is willing to share its development experience while providing assistance to other countries. This makes Turkey, and many other emerging donors, more attractive for countries that are in search of assistance. It also facilitates communication between the emerging donor and the recipient country as the emerging donor is better able to understand the problems being faced by the recipient.

The potential of the emerging donors and their comparative advantage in some areas provide for many opportunities and add value to the international humanitarian assistance. One added value is the sharing of experience as a form of assistance, which I have just mentioned. This is also a crucial part of South-South cooperation. There are two striking examples initiated by Turkey on this issue: The first is “İstanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development”, which is a joint project by Turkey and the UNDP. The Center combines Turkey’s experience in creating a vibrant private sector and UNDP’s expertise in engaging the private sector to address developmental challenges. The second example is the establishment of an international center of excellence in İstanbul that will focus on disaster risk management. The Center aims to improve disaster risk management efforts while sharing Turkey’s experience with disaster-prone developing countries.

Another obvious opportunity that comes with the emergence of new donors is the availability of more resources. The increase in the resources is good for recipients as there are more alternatives to seek assistance for, and is also good for traditional donors as their burden is being shared by the emerging ones. The emerging donors not only increase financial resources for humanitarian assistance, but also provide qualified humanitarian assistance staff to be called for in case of emergency in other countries. They also provide their existing assistance networks and their logistical and transportation infrastructure. Commensurate with their vision of increasing visibility and effectiveness, they are also willing to host regional and global events in development and humanitarian fields. Brazil’s hosting of the UN Sustainable Development Conference in June 2012 and Turkey’s hosting of the Fourth UN Least Developed Countries Conference in May 2011 are the most recent examples of these efforts. Similarly, Turkey will be hosting the Second Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit later this year, and we are also willing to host the World Humanitarian Summit to be held in 2015. These global events hosted by emerging donors also present opportunities for these countries as these conferences increase the role of the emerging donor in the humanitarian and development fields.

Emerging donors also bring in new perspectives and concepts to humanitarian field. South-South cooperation and triangular partnerships are rather new concepts in that regard, thanks to the emergence of new donor countries from the developing world. These new concepts reform and add value to the traditional way of doing things. These donors also undertake new initiatives that enlarge and enhance humanitarian space. The joint HOPEFOR initiative by Turkey, Qatar and the Dominican Republic, which focuses on civil-military coordination in disasters, and the Dialogue on Humanitarian Partnership, initiated and coordinated by Brazil and Sweden, are good examples of these endeavors.

As to the relationship between the traditional actors and the emerging ones, there is progress and there is much room for improvement. Past decade was a period of adaptation and familiarization. Traditional donors and emerging ones have different socio-economic backgrounds, different political structures and different foreign policy motives. Perfect harmony and understanding will require time and more cooperation. There are already some structures in place to that effect. For example, triangular cooperation is an innovative mechanism which is not only useful for the recipient of aid, but also for the donor parties to interact and develop an understanding of each other. Also, I believe that the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit and its preparation process can be very instrumental in forging a better understanding, cooperation and coordination between the traditional and emerging actors.

Thank you for your attention.