Turkey has moved from being a recipient of aid to become one of the largest donors of humanitarian relief in recent years. According to a new report by Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA), Turkey now ranks third behind only the US and the UK in the amount of aid it gives, accounting for 7.3 percent of the total donated in 2013.
A combination of new and old conflicts in Central African Republic, Palestine, South Sudan and Syria, along with natural disasters such as the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, led to global emergency aid soaring to a record $22 billion (£12.93bn) last year, which includes both government and private donations. It marks a $2.5 billion increase on the previous record of $19.4bn in 2010 – the year of the Haiti earthquake.
The Turkish government’s aid budget last year was £1.6bn – up 597% from 2012. In comparison, America donated $4.7bn, Britain $1.8bn, Japan $1.1bn and Germany spent $949 million in aid in 2013. Much of Ankara’s humanitarian relief went to helping the Syrian crisis: over 1 million Syrians have taken refuge inside Turkey.
The country’s policy towards humanitarian aid has changed dramatically under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Presiding over a growing and prosperous economy, and exhibiting a clear desire to expand its sphere of influence, over the past decade the Turks have massively increased their aid donations, up from $73m in 2002 to its current peak of $1.6bn.
According to GHA, in 2005, Turkey was the largest government donor to channel humanitarian assistance to Pakistan (US$147 million) following severe flooding. In recent years, AFAD – the country’s disaster management agency – and Türk Kızılayı (Turkish Red Crescent) have also played a leading role in providing relief to regions affected by national disasters and conflict. The Turks were the first international rescue service to reach typhoon victims in the Philippines, while also responding quickly to humanitarian crises in the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, northern Iraq, and Gaza.
Among the major beneficiaries of Turkish aid in recent years are African countries. Since 2011 for example, Ankara has spent some $400 million in Somalia, spearheading the country’s reconstruction by building wells, roads and a hospital, as well as boosting agricultural output.
“The Turkish are giving the kind of support we have never seen before,” Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told the website Quartz last year. “They are changing the face of Mogadishu.”
Last year, Turkey was selected as the host of the United Nations’s first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, to be held in Istanbul in 2016. Various stakeholders, from governments, to aid organisations, the UN, civil society, and the private sector will take part. The summit will consider humanitarian effectiveness, reducing vulnerability and managing risk, serving the needs of people in conflict, and transformation through innovation.
Main photo: Turkish aid relief in northern Iraq. Photo: Daily Sabah