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Turkey’s Development Cooperation: General Characteristics And The Least Developed Countries (LDC) Aspect

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Since the 1950s, Turkey’s role in the international development cooperation has gone through fundamental changes. New economic dynamics and an increasing sense of responsibility for promoting global peace through contributing to global sustainable development have enabled Turkey to emerge as a new and dynamic player in the international development cooperation architecture.

Official development assistance (ODA) has increasingly become an integral part of Turkey’s proactive foreign policy. In line with the policy objective of contributing to the creation of a more peaceful and stable environment in the neighbouring regions, Turkey has come forward as an active stakeholder in regional and global stability. As part of its policy of utilizing a wide range of soft power instruments such as assuming a mediator role in regional conflicts, Turkey also boosted its ODA to various countries affected by conflicts and other sources of instability such as natural disasters.

Turkey’s Development Cooperation: From Recipient Country to Net Donor

Turkey launched its foreign aid programme on 5 June 1985 when the State Planning Organization worked out a comprehensive aid package worth 10 million USD, destined towards institutional capacity building in Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, Somalia, and Sudan.

Changing international environment in the late 1980s resulted in the emergence of the Caucasus and Central Asian countries as independent republics. Turkish foreign policy towards the Caucasus and Central Asia, areas which were virtually out of the range of Turkish policy throughout the Cold War years, has thus been reshaped. Turkey seized the opportunity to strengthen its relations in a vast geographic area in Eurasia, with which it has historical, cultural and linguistic ties. Newly independent countries in this region were in urgent need of support in order to deal with challenges of state building and economic transformation. This need required a rapid and well-organized response: thus the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) was established and Newly Independent States in Central Asia and Caucasus became the focal point of Turkey’s assistance.

This trend has been succeeded by a rapid transformation in the recent period, resulting in a much wider geographical coverage of development partnerships, including countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

TIKA: Institutionalization of Turkey’s Development Cooperation

Established in 1992 and entrusted with the responsibility of implementing Turkey’s development cooperation policy, TIKA is also responsible for coordinating Turkey’s development cooperation with national actors, as well as with international organizations and bilateral donors. TIKA is also accredited to collect and report ODA statistics of Turkey.

TIKA’s mission is to contribute to poverty eradication and sustainable development in partner countries. At the heart of this effort lies Turkey’s own expertise and experience. Turkey shares its own expertise and experience by tailoring them to fit specific needs and development priorities of partner countries.

In 23 partner countries, TIKA has 26 Programme Coordination Offices, which play an important role in TIKA’s direct communication with local stakeholders, in the implementation of cooperation activities and the collection of country specific first hand information. Needless to say, TIKA’s activities are not limited to these 23 countries with overseas offices, but reach more than hundred countries worldwide.

Main operational activity of TIKA is technical cooperation for development of institutional capacity and human resources in partner countries. This is accomplished by providing training and advisory services in the fields where Turkey has a comparative advantage in terms of know-how and experience. These services are complemented by donations for capacity building. Another component of TIKA activities is the financing of infrastructure projects such as irrigation, sanitation and transportation projects, as well as, the construction or renovation of schools, hospitals, architectural objects of cultural heritage, etc. TIKA also extends humanitarian assistance.

New Priorities in Turkish Foreign Policy and the Role of Development Cooperation

Turkey continues its efforts to play a constructive role in major issues in its own region and beyond. These efforts are reinforced by Turkey’s development cooperation activities. Turkey’s endeavors in the field of development cooperation demonstrate its dedication to the global efforts aimed at poverty eradication and sustainable development for a better future for all.

Following the downfall of the Taliban regime, Turkey put Afghanistan on top of its development cooperation agenda. Turkey prioritized the reconstruction of this war-torn society, provision of basic services, creation of a new system respectful of basic liberties, as well as reinstitution of domestic order. Turkey’s ODA to Afghanistan reached 400 million USD between 2005 and 2009. Currently, TIKA has three operational field offices in Afghanistan, which are based in Kabul, Mazar-i Sharif and Wardak, all of which are working in close cooperation with the Turkish Embassy in Kabul.

A related goal of Turkish foreign policy in recent decades is to extend the scope of Turkey’s involvement beyond the immediate neighbourhood and address proactively other pressing global issues. In line with this objective, Turkey initiated development cooperation relations with African countries. Turkey was admitted to the African Union as an “Observer” in 2002. Both the “Year of Africa” was declared in Turkey and the first TIKA office in Africa was opened in Ethiopia In 2005, followed by TIKA offices in Sudan and Senegal. These offices work at the regional level, covering countries within their vicinity. In August 2008, Turkey hosted the “Turkey – Africa Cooperation Summit” in Istanbul and in 2008 the African Union declared Turkey a “Strategic Partner”.

Main areas of cooperation in Africa include agriculture, health, education, water and sanitation, vocational training, institutional capacity development and humanitarian assistance. The “Africa Agricultural Development Programme”, “Africa Health Programme” and the “Africa Vocational Training Programme” are multi-country programmes tailored to meet the specific needs of African countries. Besides capacity building activities, Turkey, through TIKA, undertakes many projects in building psychical infrastructures for the provision of social services such as the construction of schools and hospitals.

Turkey’s total official development assistance flows to Africa reached 51.73 million USD in 2006, which represents a five-fold increase compared to 2005. Turkey is committed to increasing these figures.

It is also worth mentioning that, another priority of Turkey has been to foster good working relations with various international organizations in order to accentuate the country’s growing role in global cooperation. In that context, Turkey has been providing voluntary contributions to multilateral organizations, such as the OECD, UNDP, UNIDO and FAO. The total contributions made by Turkey to international organizations in 2008 alone amounted to 44.62 million USD, the largest portion of which went to various UN agencies and funds.

Turkey’s Performance as a New Donor

The average annual ODA volume for the period 2006-2009 was above 700 million USD. Despite the global economic crisis, total ODA of Turkey was 707 million USD in 2009 and did not fall below the 700 million USD. As a matter of fact, evaluated in terms of 2008 prices, the 2009 figure represents an increase of 1.63% according to official OECD data. In 2010, Turkey’s ODA reached 966 million USD.

In 2010 alone, Turkey provided development assistance to 131 countries that appear on the OECD/DAC list of aid recipients. According to OECD/DAC Development Cooperation Report, Turkey, which was the number one donor in 2006 among emerging donors, ranked second after the Republic of Korea both in 2007 and 2008 with ODA that amounted to 602 million USD and 780.37 million USD respectively.

The regional distribution of Turkey’s 2009 ODA shows that with a share of almost 45%, countries in South and Central Asia are still the main partners, followed by Balkan and Eastern European countries with a share of nearly 27%.

Africa and Middle Eastern countries, which are Turkey’s relatively more recent partners, received a share of almost one fourth of Turkish ODA. Aid delivered to Africa increased by 67% from 30.9 million USD to 71 million USD in 2010. Aid to the LDCs has increased to 158.95 USD million in 2010. The fact that Turkish aid has reached most of the countries in Africa shows Turkey’s aspiration of becoming an active development partner on the continent.

Afghanistan, an LDC, has been the major recipient of Turkish ODA in the last years.

From a sectoral approach, Turkey concentrated its aid efforts in economic and social infrastructure. Turkey spent more resources on education and health sector, and most of Turkey’s development cooperation projects between 2005 and 2010 mainly focused on the development of social infrastructure sector. The main reason behind this concentration can be attributed to Turkey’s demand-driven aid policy, that is, to respond to the call of recipient countries to deliver aid in sub-sectors such as education, health, water and sanitation, administrative and civil infrastructures which represent basic needs of people.

South-South cooperation forms an important aspect of Turkish development cooperation. According to the UN data, net disbursements of South-South cooperation (bilateral and multilateral) in 2007 in Colombia, the Republic of Korea, and Turkey were 343 million, 270 million, and 602 million USD respectively. Between 2002 and 2007, the amount increased by 3 times in Colombia, 4 times in the Republic of Korea, and 20 times in Turkey.

Turkey’s Vision for LDC Development

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) represent the poorest and weakest segment of the international community. Extreme poverty, structural weaknesses of their economies and lack of capacities related to growth, often compounded by structural handicaps, hamper efforts of these countries to improve the quality of life of their people which constitute 11% of the world population. In 1971, 25 countries were listed as LDCs, now there are 48 countries on that list. In the last 40 years, only three countries have graduated from the LDC status (Botswana - 1994, Cape Verde - 2007, Maldives - 2011).

As an emerging development partner for the LDCs, Turkey is actively engaged in raising awareness in the international community and contributing to the efforts for finding solutions to the pressing problems of the LDCs. Within this framework, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolutions 64/213 dated December 2009 and 65/171 dated December 2010 decided to convene the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), in Istanbul on 9-13 May 2011.

Turkey firmly believes that it is a collective and shared responsibility to help the LDCs, not just because it is a moral and ethical imperative, but also because global peace and security is directly linked with global sustainable development. In this vein, Turkey attached great importance and eagerly hosted the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, in Istanbul on 9-13 May 2011. The Conference has constituted a significant step forward in addressing the problems confronted by the LDCs and represented the political will and determination of the Heads of State and Government of the member states, the leaders of the International Community and other stake holders.

It has been possible to draw up the parameters of a renewed and strengthened global partnership to find lasting solutions to the complex challenges of the LDCs in the next decade. The conference gave an opportunity to inform the international community about all these global challenges, such as poverty, food security, energy security, the adverse effects of the climate change, etc. Turkey attributed special importance to enhance international public awareness on these issues.

Turkey has highlighted that all people have the right to benefit from global wealth and prosperity; it is in the interest of all to deal with global challenges and poverty. It is a moral obligation of the global community as well. There is a need for a paradigm of development so as to achieve sustained, equitable and balanced growth for all.

In this context, the Istanbul Conference was different from all previous conferences. This “once a decade” event was held for the first time in a developing country. Also for the first time it was comprised of several dimensions, including the Parliamentarian Forum and the Intellectual Forum. Within the framework of the private sector track, a high level meeting on investment and partnership, a business forum and a trade fair were organized. Turkey recommended such events to form part of the conference, in order to draw upon the different experiences across the sectors.

From the outset, Turkey has committed itself not only to host the Conference but also to contribute to its substance by taking active part in the preparatory process and the negotiations of the outcome documents. Turkey has worked to the best of its ability to achieve a successful conclusion. There is no doubt that it was only possible through a long preparatory process with the participation of all the stakeholders.

The conference was successful also with regard to the level of attendance. 36 Heads of State and Government, 96 Ministers and 66 Presidents of International Organizations attended the Conference. A total of 8.931 people were accredited to the Conference. Together with many off-site activities, the number of participants exceeded 10.000. The civil society and media greatly contributed to sensitizing the international public opinion to the challenges faced by the LDCs.

As a result of all these efforts the Istanbul Declaration, as well as a comprehensive Istanbul Programme of Action, was agreed upon. The Istanbul declaration confirms and further strengthens the commitments of the international community and development partners to the LDCs. It sets out a cooperation framework and the responsibilities of the UN system, including the international institutions, developed countries as the development partners, developing countries within the context of South-South Cooperation and LDCs themselves. The Istanbul Programme of Action, on the other hand, is a detailed document that contains actions to be taken up and delivered by 2020 both by the Least Developed Countries and the development partners to achieve sustained and equitable growth by the LDCs.

Drawing its strength from the global solidarity and partnership, the Istanbul Programme of Action will serve as a guiding document for development. The core elements of the Istanbul Programme of Action are more ODA commitments, enhanced access to trade, improvement of the productive capacities of the LDCs and promotion of investments towards this aim. Negotiations essentially focused on trade, investment and Official Development Aid (ODA) at the Conference in Istanbul. While the target of ODA was set as 0.15-0.2 per cent of the GDP in the Brussels Programme of Action, it remained at 0.09 per cent on average.

Istanbul Programme of Action aims at increasing the productive capacity of the LDCs focusing on infrastructure, manufacturing, energy, science, technology and innovation, agriculture and rural development and to this aim providing technical and financial assistance as well promoting the role of women and the private sector. Doubling the share of the LDCs in the world trade until 2020 is another important goal of the Istanbul Programme of Action. It has been agreed to promptly implement the decisions within the framework of WTO regarding the duty free/quota free market access for LDCs and to regulate the “rules of origin” regarding the imports from LDCs to facilitate the market access. It has been foreseen to increase the share of LDCs in the “Aid for Trade” mechanism and widen the scope of the assistance given to “Enhanced Integrated Framework”.

In the Istanbul Programme of Action, there are new elements such as increasing the access of women and girls to education and health services, enhancing the economic opportunities for women, increasing the role of women in the decision making process, gender mainstreaming and empowerment of women. Ensuring the participation of youth in the economic and social life, as well as decision making processes, are also new elements of the Programme of Action.

A special emphasis is also given to monitoring the implementation and delivery of the commitments. There is no doubt that the primary responsibility for their implementation will lie with the LDCs, themselves. However, support of the development partners and the international community are of great importance. It is expected that the member states, parliaments, civil society, private sector, intellectuals all assume an active role in monitoring the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action and the delivery of the results against the commitments made at the Conference.

Turkey will contribute to this process by allocating 5 million USD for the monitoring of the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action. Furthermore, Turkey has also expressed its readiness to host a Mid-Term Review Conference of the Istanbul Programme of Action, Istanbul, in 2015. During the conference, Prime Minister Erdoğan announced Turkey’s Economic and Technical Cooperation Package for the LDCs, as the host country of the UN LDC IV.

Accordingly, Turkey will be making available a total of 200 million USD annually to LDCs, starting in 2012. This will be used for technical cooperation projects and programmes as well as scholarships. Turkey as a developing country has many success stories and experiences to share with the LDCs. Turkey aims to increase the level of its direct investment to the LDCs, particularly from the private sector, to a total of 5 billion USD by 2015 – and even strive to increase this amount to 10 billion USD by 2020.

Turkey’s contributions to the Istanbul Programme of Action have concentrated on areas such as, increasing productive capacities, strengthening the role of the private sector in development, improving the instruments for investment incentives, tourism, reducing the risk of disaster and disaster management, fight against desertification, forestry and afforestation, dry land management, empowerment of women in social life and economy, increasing education opportunities, vocational training, especially for girls and increasing job opportunities for young people.

Turkey believes that the Istanbul Programme of Action will create a new momentum for an “accelerated”, “sustained”, “inclusive” and “equitable” economic development in the LDCs. In this regard, Turkey is committed, ready and willing to do its part in assisting the development process of the LDCs. Lastly, Turkey is prepared to host an “International Science, Technology and Innovation Center” and an “International Agriculture Center” dedicated to the LDCs.