Giant organizations of the civil society

Giant organizations of the civil society

Şükrü Küçükşahin
Non-governmental organizations (NGO) are the indispensables of democracy. For this reason, in Turkey, in every important matter, major NGOs, for example the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) stands out immediately and takes to the front with a “democracy” discourse.

We have seen many examples of this recently.

When it was the new constitution in question, the TOBB immediately took action and held meetings at every corner of the country for a “participatory, democratic constitution.” It exerted all kinds of material and spiritual efforts; nobody opposed it, on the contrary, they applauded it.

When it was the resolution process, again, TOBB was working. With the heads of other major NGOs, the head of the TOBB did not hesitate to join the ranks of wise people because the country needed peace. They were right because in a country where there was no peace there couldn’t have been any democracy.

Democracy without opposition

However, it is noteworthy that every time these organizations stepped forward and demonstrated a parallelism with the policies of the government and political power; it was perceived as if they were partners in the government.

When you view the table where salaries of civil servants are being bargained, if you see the head of an NGO, then the perception cannot be anything else.

If the only action a giant NGO exerts when hundred thousands of its members were being forced into an economic clamp with a law the government made was to watch the debate in the Parliament and to say, “That is all we can do;” then when the same NGO tries to raise hell saying “Our members are suffering,” when incidents occur that the government does not like, well, maybe, then no attention is paid to it.

As a matter of fact, these stances actually bury their duties of warning the government, telling the government the truth.

It is apparent that those who sided with the powerful and neglected their duties during the February 28 process and took a wrong position yesterday will tomorrow be assessed by their policies today.

Especially it is a huge contrast that executives of these NGOs, while they advise, “Be careful, democracy can only be possible with a strong opposition” behind closed doors, when it is time for them to act, that they with this or that concern shy away even from taking a small step.

Because, if there is no democracy without opposition, then it is a must that those channels where the opposition will express itself should be kept wide open.

Democracy losing

For this reason, the scene at the last general assembly of the TOBB was disappointing.

If, with a decision that is a result of the government’s demand, even this platform is closed to opposition, then everybody should consider where and how the opposition will express itself; even if the TOBB’s hands are tied on this matter, then it is a sad situation.

Let’s assume, these NGOs are “saving the day” and for some of their executives several roads are opened; but will there not be a need for dialogue and cooperation with the opposition ever in the future?

Well, at that day, when the doors of the opposition are knocked, when a voice that says “enter” is not heard from inside, then it would not be democracy that has won.

For this reason, these kinds of NGOs cannot not hide behind the excuse, “Because we have semi-public characteristic, we need to stay close to the government,” because if we are talking about a “democracy” then there should be a limit to that closeness.

Today, because giant NGOs have crossed that border, the smaller ones cannot even move and there emerges huge black holes that we do not know that would absorb what and when.

In TOBB, it may seem that the administration and the prime minister have won, but democracy has lost. It should be considered naïve that the grassroots of the TOBB does not see this loss.

Şükrü Küçükşahin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Aug. 5. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.