#

Turkey and the Least Developed Countries: A New Partnership

Deha ERPEK (*)

The Least Developed Countries

Fifty countries are currently designated by the United Nations as Least Developed Countries (LDCs). These are the poorest and weakest members of the international community, being economically, socially and environmentally the most vulnerable countries of the globe.

An estimated 750 million people live in the LDCs which constitutes about 12 percent of the world’s population. By the year 2015, another 200 million people is estimated to be added to that and thus render the efforts to eradicate or at least reduce the poverty more difficult in these countries.

With globalization, economic and social threats such as poverty, hunger, unemployment, lack of access to proper healthcare and education, infectious diseases have become sources of economic, political and social instability for developing and developed countries alike. It is the collective responsibility of the international community to commit itself to the goals of eradicating poverty, providing food security and preventing hunger, achieving economic growth and promoting sustainable development.

It is not quite possible to talk about universal peace, harmony, stability and sustainable cooperation unless one is able to provide the means for a decent living for people all around the world

The governments of the LDC’s should be commended in their efforts to strengthen their policies for developing their productive capacities, to improve governance, together with their macro-economic performances, and for their achievement through structural reforms, trade liberalization and privatization. Yet, much needs to be done.

The international community should therefore assist and support the LDCs to promote economic growth and sustainable development, to build and enhance human and institutional capacities and to eradicate poverty. National efforts and policies must be complemented by developed partners by providing the LDCs with adequate resources and technical assistance to enhance their productive capacities and to remedy their structural weaknesses. Therefore, the contribution of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector is also indispensable in this context.

Turkey and the Least Developed Countries

Turkey is a donor country for the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, established by the IMF in 1999 and strongly committed to do her share in addressing the needs of the LDCs.

Turkey’s contributions to the various United Nations funds and programs as well as its voluntary contributions  to a number of international and regional organizations will be sustained  and enhanced to the extent possible for the benefit of those in need.

Turkey’s role as an emerging donor country is steadily increasing. Turkey is committed to do its share in addressing the needs of the LDCs and is actively supporting the international efforts for the eradication of poverty.

The Official Development Assistance (ODA) provided by Turkey in 2005 amounts to 600 million USD, reaching the European Union target of 0.17 for ODA/GNI ratio. The ODA provided by Turkey has reached 750 million USD in 2006.

The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) is the major channel to extend Turkey’s humanitarian and development assistance to the LDC’s. TIKA was established in 1992 as the principal government institution dealing with technical cooperation. It has gradually expanded its scope both in terms of the areas of technical cooperation and geography.

Today, TIKA is carrying out hundreds of projects in partner countries in Central Asia, Caucasus, Balkans, Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. With field offices in 18 countries and regions, three of which are in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Khartoum (Sudan) and Dakar (Senegal), TIKA contributes to the development of partner countries in numerous areas, including education, health, preservation of historical relics, transfer of know-how, social reconciliation, regional development, and tourism.

A fund of 15 million US Dollars was established for the implementation of projects through TIKA in the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDs). TIKA is exploring ways and means of initiating further cooperation schemes with its partners in order to contribute to regional efforts, especially in the fight against poverty, epidemics and illiteracy. These projects will also enhance bilateral relations.

In addition, Turkey has earmarked 5 million US Dollars in order to provide financing for small and medium scale regional development projects in the LDCs. These projects, which will be determined in cooperation with the LDC countries themselves, could be in a number of areas such as agriculture, health, education, etc.

Turkey also strives to rapidly channel humanitarian assistance to those countries in dire need and supports international efforts indiscriminate of race, religion, language and gender. Turkey’s humanitarian aid (both in cash and in kind) to LDCs has exceeded 38 million USD so far.

Turkey is also participating in international  donors’ conferences for the economic and social development of the LDC’s. So far, Turkey has pledged a total of 2.9 million US Dollars for  Liberia, Gine Bissau, Yemen, Burundi, Vanuatu and Haiti in 2006 and 2007.

Last but not least, on 25 September 2007, Turkey pledged 1 million US Dollars at the Stockholm International Donor’s Conference for the “Enhanced Integrated Framework Fund” which was founded to support the efforts to improve the trade capacities of the LDCs and to integrate the trade related issues of these countries into their national development strategies.

As a middle income country, Turkey is in a better position to understand the requirements and concerns of the LDCs and is committed to do her best to be the voice of these countries at the international fora. Pursuant to Turkey’s growing interest in global problems and its desire to extend its support to the LDCs, the annual Ministerial Conference of LDCs was held on 9-10 July 2007 in Istanbul with the topic “Making Globalization Work for the Least Developed Countries”. The Conference adopted the “Istanbul Declaration for LDCs”. Turkish Government has recently assigned an Ambassador to coordinate Turkey’s relations with the LDCs and assistance to be provided to those countries.

-----

(*) Daire Başkanı, Birleşmiş Milletler Dairesi, Dışişleri Bakanlığı