Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Turkey's Humanitarian Diplomacy and Development Cooperation

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Turkey's Humanitarian Diplomacy and Development Cooperation

Article excerpt

Distance Matters

One way to examine Turkey's quest for multi-dimensional and effective foreign policy is to focus on the development assistance and responses to humanitarian crisis. As poverty, inequality, human resource weakness, economic vulnerability and humanitarian crisis continue to haunt global politics, Turkey, in search of being a global actor, has become involved deeply with such a policy and given a political priority to development cooperation activities and humanitarian assistance. The political will of active engagement with such issues, found positive responses, in less than a decade, and Turkey's efforts has become subject of numerous praises, particularly in terms of its pace and effectiveness. (1)

"If I request computers from the UN, they will take months and require a number of assessments. They will spend $50,000 to give me $7,000 of equipment. If I request computers from Turkey, they will show up next week" says Mohamed Nour, the Mayor of Mogadishu, Somalia, in September 2013 when he was asked about Turkish aid to Somalia. (2)

In January 2013, the President of Somalia, Hassan Sheik Mahmoud, elaborated on what he defined as the features of the Turkish model in Somalia.

"The Turkish model in Somalia is very, very clear ... They said we want to do this thing in Somalia, and they do it. They are there. They come there, starting from their top leadership, the prime minister of the country with his family, the rest, deputy prime minister, ministries. There is a deputy prime minister who comes to Somalia every other month just to monitor and see how the projects are going on. They are building or implementing projects that are really tangible ones ... They are doing the work there. They are driving their own cars. They are moving the city. They are building. They are teaching. They are--and there are a number of clinics that provide a free service to the people in Mogadishu alone. They are doing the same thing--they started doing the same thing in Puntland and Somaliland. Today Mogadishu is cleaner because of the support of the Turkish. They provided the garbage collection trucks and everything and the city is cleaner today." (3)

Neither the President nor the Mayor is alone in praising Turkish aid. Since 2011, virtually all political actors, refugees, representatives of UN, and NGOs from and outside of Turkey have made similar comments. Two years later today, Turkey's humanitarian aid to Somalia has become one of the most well-known acts that has gained the hearts and minds of people in Africa and elsewhere. (4)

There are reasons for Somalians to focus on the "being there" aspect of international-humanitarian aid, as almost all urgent humanitarian aid to Somalia for the last 20 years has been coordinated at a physical distance because of "security concerns." While there is no doubt that security matters, Turkey is not immune from such a concern as, in addition to several other attacks and threats, its embassy was recently subject to a deadly assault. (5) Despite the security situation, Turkey has been active in the re-building of Somalia, particularly since August 2011 with the historic visit of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (6) Urgent humanitarian aid has developed into a comprehensive program for rebuilding Somalia and Turkey has been defined as the only country "investing in the stability of Somalia unlike other countries waiting for stability to invest." (7) Further, Turkey has also been active to a varying degree in several countries with similar security problems, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, etc. (8)

While there is no doubt that the effectiveness of international aid suffers from insecure political conditions, such a context is not unfamiliar to aid activities and it cannot be the sole factor to explain the difficulties of international aid. Apparently, what matters more is not simply the physical distance but what can be defined as the affective distance. …

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