By TBY | Turkey | Jun 17, 2014
Turkish foreign policy has transformed tremendously over the course of the past decade, directed by the country’s dynamic capacity for adjustment in the face of complex challenges. In a region […]
Turkish foreign policy has transformed tremendously over the course of the past decade, directed by the country’s dynamic capacity for adjustment in the face of complex challenges. In a region with an intricate ethnic composition and perennially fluctuating political affiliations, where the victims of conflict are often marginalized minorities, Turkey has established a reputation for providing support to those most in need. From the Balkans to the Sahel, via the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the wider MENA region, the Republic has fostered stronger ties with many vulnerable groups, particularly those from Turkic cultures with whom Turkish citizens enjoy a shared heritage.
To this end, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), over the two decades since its foundation, has grown to serve people in 30 countries across the world, through its 33 Program Coordination Offices. Smaller activities related to the organization are carried out in almost 100 countries, and these numbers grow each year. In recent years, official development assistance (ODA) from Turkey has grown dramatically, with an unprecedented spike from $1.27 billion in 2011 to $2.53 billion in 2012. Considering that the figure for one decade prior to this had been a mere $85 million, these figures signify a successful and sustainable organization that naturally complements the nation’s broader foreign policy objectives.
The vast majority of this assistance is contributed in a bilateral context, with just $110.8 million being channeled into multilateral programs. Frequent recipient countries include Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Tunisia, among many others. Donated funds are utilized in a variety of ways and directed through program offices to projects in the fields of social infrastructure and services, water and sanitation works, and administrative, civil, and economic infrastructure.
Projects typically involved the bettering of physical infrastructure of buildings such as schools, health clinics, and hospitals. Other projects involve the provision of educational and medical supplies, the construction of potable water wells for residential neighborhoods and water-treatment plants, operational assistance for education service providers, and the expansion of agricultural programs at a governmental level. Parallel to the heavy ODA provided through TİKA, direct investment on the part of the Turkish private sector amounted to $735 million in 2012. New investments and capital export to developing countries is stimulating these economies, augmenting official aid projects, and supporting local markets. Taken in combination with ODA, total development assistance (TDA) exceeded $3 billion in 2012.
Another important aspect of TİKA’s work is its emergency and humanitarian aid delivery, which has played a major part in the growth of TDA in 2012. As the humanitarian crisis in neighboring Syria persists, a steady stream of asylum-seekers has crossed the border into Turkey in need of assistance. Aid for this significant population led to Turkish emergency aid jumping by 300% in 2012. Aside from this unavoidable issue, TİKA has continued to ensure a stream of aid in the other direction, to countries in which conflict has disrupted lives and infrastructure and the proper functioning of the economy.
The Turkish Department of Foreign Affairs has reacted pragmatically to developments in the MENA region over the past three years, with consistent humanitarian policies designed to guarantee the security and safety of each country’s citizens. In countries affected by the “Arab Spring,” particularly Syria, Libya, and Tunisia, TİKA has provided support for many. In Tunisia, a program to modernize the police force by providing vehicles and equipment has allowed a more peaceful transition to democracy. For Central Asian nations, extensive training has been provided to customs officers and law enforcement professionals to improve cooperation in counter-narcotics programs and intelligence sharing.
The scale of aid that Turkey is currently providing represents the country’s transition from a recipient to a provider of ODA and will not only ensure a better life for the diverse population who will benefit, but also guarantee a stronger soft-power position for Turkey in the region and beyond.