Turkey: Making Sense of Ankara's Growing Foreign Aid Program

One of the more impressive success stories of the last decade has been the growth of the Turkish Cooperation and
Coordination Agency (TIKA), Turkey's foreign aid agency. From being a country that frequently received international assistance, Turkey has gone on to become a quite interesting and dynamic player in the foreign aid field. As academic Saban Kardas points out in a very interesting report for the German Marshall Fund, TIKA's development assistance funds shot up 27 fold over the last decade, today standing at some $2.3 billion, with Turkey now playing a leading development role in a number of countries, particularly in Afghanistan and Somalia.

More interesting, as Kardas writes, is the mix of humanitarian and foreign policy goals that lie behind Turkey's growing foreign aid program. From his analysis:

While in some cases, Turkey’s assistance is motivated by
purely global humanitarian considerations and takes the
form of technical assistance or development credits, in other
cases, Turkey supports cultural projects and works toward the
goal of reconnecting with the countries with which it shares
a common, cultural, and historic heritage. The emphasis
that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu places on Turkey’s
historic responsibility towards civilizational kin has provided
added impetus for channeling aid to specific regions.

In addition to carrying out technical assistance projects
that are intended to bolster ties with the countries in
the Ottoman-Turkish cultural zone by contributing to
their economic and political development, some projects
supported by Turkey focused on the discovery or restoration
of historic artifacts or monuments in a geography
stretching from Mongolia to the Balkans. Similarly, Turkey
has promoted the study of Turkish language and culture
abroad as well as providing scholarships, through which it
hopes to increase its soft power in the surrounding regions.
However, as TIKA’s operations in Serbia or Montenegro
indicate, Turkey is careful to avoid creating an image that its
aid policy targets only the countries in the shared civilizational

Also, Turkey’s contributions to development aid play an
instrumental role in its ethical criticism of the international
order on the grounds that it fails to distribute justice. Both
public and non-governmental sources have delivered large
amounts of aid in humanitarian emergencies worldwide,
reflecting the globalist emphasis in Turkey’s foreign policy.
In an effort to draw attention to the issue of underdevelopment,
Turkey, for instance, organized the UN Least Developed
Countries summit in 2011. Turkey’s motto was to
help at least some of these countries graduate from the least
developed countries’ league.

Along with Kardas's analysis, GMF has released a companion piece that looks at how Turkey might best maximize the impact of its growing foreign aid program and suggesting the country work more closely with other international donors and domestic aid organizations. That piece can be found here.

Turkey: Making Sense of Ankara's Growing Foreign Aid Program

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