Turkey stands committed to multilateralism
Strains in Turkey’s relations with its Western allies are perceived as Turkey’s drifting from the West and its commitment to the Trans-Atlantic alliance is being increasingly questioned.
This comes at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump shows complete disdain to multilateralism and the European Union is an existential crisis.
In contrast to the question marks over its commitment to the Western values due to especially its domestic practices, Turkey remains committed to multilateralism and especially to the United Nations universal values system.
This commitment will face the challenge of being approved or not especially by its Western allies, as Turkey has announced its candidate for the U.N. General Assembly’s presidency for the 2020-2021 period. It is the turn of the Western region, and other than Turkey, no one so far has come up front for the job. If that will continue to be so, which we will know by November, Turkey’s candidate, former Ambassador Volkan Bozkır, will be automatically selected; if another candidate will come up, there will be elections in June.
Turkey is lobbying hard and trusts on its track record as one of the most active partners to the U.N. One of the strongest arguments voiced by the Turkish officials is the country’s commitment to the implementation of the U.N.’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). One of the indicators of this commitment, according to Turkish officials, is the government’s 11th national development program endorsed last summer, which was prepared in line with the SDGs.
Another indicator is that it has presented two voluntary national reviews (VNR) to the U.N.; the first in 2016 and the second last July, and as such is among a handful of countries (22) to do so.
That’s at the domestic level; at the international level it remains one of the most energetic partners to the U.N. Turkey is the 14th biggest contributor to the U.N. budget, and in line with the U.N.’s motto “to leave no one behind,” it has been taking an active role in supporting the less developed countries (LDCs), 47 states - most being in the African continent. As it has hosted the fourth U.N. Conference on LDCs in Istanbul in 2011, Turkey announced a comprehensive “Economic and Technical Cooperation Package” and committed to providing assistance of $200 million annually to LDCs until 2020. But since then, its official annual development assistance to LDC’s already exceeded $300 million annually.
Turkey’s profile on humanitarian assistance is shifting from providing humanitarian aid in terms of cash transfer to development assistance. In other words, while Turkey continues to give fish, it now focuses more on teaching how to fish.
It has, for instance, set up a technology bank in Gebze near Istanbul in order to equip LDCs with the necessary capacity so that when the protection time of the intellectual property rights expires or that companies especially in advanced industrialized countries decide to share the patents free of charge, LDC’s can do the transfer of technology and patents.
Another change in Turkey’s profile is its focus on a more multilateral approach. In the past, Turkey traditionally used TİKA (Turkey’s Cooperation and Development Agency) to provide assistance on a bilateral cooperation framework. But in the last couple of years its profile has evolved into a more multilateral approach in the form of partnership with U.N. agencies, especially the UNDP.
Turkey is, in fact, UNDP’s strategic partner. UNDP’s regional office for CIS countries and Eastern Europe was relocated from Bratislava to Istanbul, turning Turkey’s biggest city into a U.N. regional hub as other agencies like U.N. women followed suit and started to set up their regional bases in Istanbul.
Add to all this the government’s refugee policy, and it becomes clear that any other candidate who might want to compete with Turkey for the U.N. General Assembly presidency could face a pretty serious challenge. The Turkish side is still cautious, however, and does not exclude the possibility that the EU might come up with a last-minute joint candidate. That’s why this year’s General Assembly in New York has been used as an opportunity for intensive lobbying for Bozkır’s candidacy.