TBY talks to two NGO presidents in Turkey on the role of their organizations in the global arena, the significance of social media, and their outlooks on the future of international dialogue.
To what extent can NGOs and INGOs contribute to shaping international issues and meet the needs of society?
AHMET EYÜP ÖZGÜÇ It is impossible to overestimate the importance of NGOs and INGOs in addressing international issues. NGOs play a significant role in the making of international policies. NGOs have immensely contributed to sustainable development at the international level. Governmental organizations are not sufficient in shaping international policies, as there are also other factors besides governmental organizations such as NGOs and INGOs. NGOs represent societies as governments do. NGOs are a part of society. Therefore they can be close to the needs of society, and international policies need to be shaped by the wants and needs of society.
AKKAN SUVER This is the century of information, but I foresee that the coming years will be focused on the growth of NGOs. These organizations do not change, whereas governments are constantly shifting and evolving. The Marmara Foundation works in many areas and organizes platforms for an academic council and a think-tank designed for brainstorming. There are many NGOs in Turkey, but they are often geared toward one, simple goal. However, whether we are dealing with women and children’s activities or the fight against illness, we take the same stand. There is no other international organization that works in so many different ways in Turkey, and that means that we have gained greater recognition from the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
What role does social media play in the strategy of the Istanbul World Political Forum (IWPF) to create international political dialogue?
AEÖ Social media plays a crucial role in IWPF’s strategy to create international political dialogue. At IWPF 2012, social media was utilized very effectively. In order to homogenously reach international society, we believe that social media is a crucial tool. We believe in the power of social media on politics. The only thing that gathered all the revolutionaries in the streets of Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Greece, and even the US was social media. Likewise the only thing that governments and dictators cannot stop is social media. At IWPF, we have focused on building a new world this year. We believe that building a new world is not just a duty of politicians; a new world needs to be built by society and the public itself. The most effective way to reach and awaken society is to use social media.
How would you characterize the social developments across the different regions of Turkey?
AS There are problems in the southeast region of the country, which is underdeveloped. At the Marmara Foundation, we seek to end the difference between the East and West in Turkey. In some areas, such as the hydro industry, there have been immediate developments. For example, in Adıyaman, Urfa, and Gaziantep, we have seen rapid changes. There are people living in very good conditions, but there are still a number of problems. We have political problems and ethnic conflicts, which is a major handicap for the country. If the government works hard, there will be gradual progress and comprehensive changes.
What is the significance of IWPF 2012 for Turkey?
AEÖ We live in a dramatically changing world; the old ideologies that have dominated the last century do not provide solutions to the new challenges we face. They are not relevant in the age of global competition, abrupt technological advances, the revolution of the role of women, new environmental threats, and widespread demand for a fairer global order. I believe IWPF 2012 can be the starting point to overcome issues beyond borders.
What is your outlook for Turkey in the next five years in terms of its foreign relations?
AS The development of my country is very strong economically, but if we grow only in this area, we will face huge problems. If we develop our country, Greece, Romania, Azerbaijan, and Syria will take a share of this wealth. In the age of globalized economies, we are experiencing increased interconnectivity. This is part of my idea to develop together and share the wealth. The idea of Turkey going ahead alone is not sufficient, and collaboration is my ideal.
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