Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Broadening the Nongovernmental Humanitarian Mission: The IHH and Mediation

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Broadening the Nongovernmental Humanitarian Mission: The IHH and Mediation

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), Turkey's top nongovernmental humanitarian organization by aid volume in 2011 and 2013, and the second in 2012, (1) today delivers relief to 140 countries worldwide. The delivered aid varies from the fight against hunger to opening medical clinics, providing vocational education to women, and providing shelter and psychological support to orphans. However, quite recently, the IHH has begun channeling its operational capabilities and motives to fields beyond delivering humanitarian relief; as a novel internationalist humanitarian practice (for both Turkey and the IHH), it has begun acting as a mediator in disputes and intra-state conflicts. For instance, as a member of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the IHH has played a crucial role in the peace negotiations between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which were initiated to end the decades-long conflict in the country. In another example, the IHH has upheld arbitration and mediation roles between warring parties and in the release of civilians imprisoned in Syria. Similarly, recently, the IHH contributed to the release of two Czech women kidnapped by an al-Qaeda-linked armed group in Pakistan by officially heading the negotiations with the women's kidnappers. In a final example, the IHH is endeavoring to contribute to the solution of the Kurdish issue in the Middle East by acting as a platform to facilitate discussions. I will detail these examples and share more of them below. Needless to say, as demonstrated by these examples, the IHH does not confine itself to relief providing; moving well beyond this role, it implements mediation (or humanitarian diplomacy as the IHH calls it (2)) and has so far accumulated a great deal of experience. As my respondents from IHH have stated, the IHH plans to continue and expand its role in acting as a mediator in international disputes.

This paper explores the dynamics of and the motivations behind the IHH's novel civilian mediator role and its relevant practices. Concomitant to the IHH's expansion of its area of work, several other nongovernmental organizations in Turkey have begun running international humanitarian missions, and it has been suggested that Turkey is now following a proactive foreign policy, in the scope of which it has become an international humanitarian actor. This paper therefore, secondly, questions the place that the IHH's international humanitarian activities occupy in broader turn in Turkey's contemporary foreign policy. Within the scope of this examination, the paper initially discusses the roots and motives of the broader nongovernmental internationalist and humanitarian concerns in the country and the government's role in it. This debate is followed by a discussion of the IHH's broadening nongovernmental humanitarian mission through humanitarian diplomacy and mediation, which is followed by an exclusive analysis of the IHH's mediator role in the TPMT and MILF's disarmament. The research paper is based on interviews conducted with both junior and senior officials from the IHH, all of whom have been involved either in the formulation or in the conduct of the IHH's mediation practices. Their names have been omitted due to ethical concerns.

Nongovernmental Internationalism in Turkey

Nongovernmental humanitarian internationalism, a form of consciousness and a practice of overseas and cross-border civilian humanitarian engagement, is overwhelmingly characterized in Turkey by the involvement of religiously oriented humanitarian organizations. (3) The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency's (TiKA) development assistance reports also suggest this. (4) Accordingly, setting aside the very minor contributions of a handful of secular organizations, most of Turkey's international aid to the needy in global crisis zones is provided by nongovernmental organizations with religious concerns. …

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