UNDP set to move its regional center to Istanbul

UNDP set to move its regional center to Istanbul

Emine Kart ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
UNDP set to move its regional center to Istanbul

Kamal Malhotra says the financial aspect played its part in the relocation.

Turkish and U.N. officials have reached an agreement in principle to move the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Centre in Bratislava to Istanbul amid what many are considering an assertive step toward the creation of a U.N. hub in Istanbul.

The Turkish government expressed willingness for such a move and offered attractive incentives to promote the relocation of the regional center from the Slovakian capital to Istanbul, sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The top U.N. official based in Ankara, approached by the Daily News on July 24, confirmed the ongoing talks between U.N. and Turkish Foreign Ministry officials for the drafting of the legal agreement which will eventually have to be ratified by Parliament.

Kamal Malhotra, U.N. resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative for Turkey, said such a relocation would be reasonable for the U.N. side for several reasons.

A senior Turkish diplomat, speaking to the Daily News yesterday, also confirmed the proposal, while underlining that the move should be considered within the framework of Turkey’s target of turning Istanbul into a center for international organizations given that it has already become a global financial center.

“In regards to its own mission, the UNDP positively approached the idea, since with this office it will be closer to Arab Spring countries, North Africa and the Middle East,” said the same senior diplomat, speaking under the customary condition of anonymity.

Recalling that Turkey hosted the United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in May 2011, the diplomat said the UNDP, through its office in Istanbul, would more comfortably reach out to LDCs, a majority of which are located in Africa.

Ankara has offered attractive incentives, but both the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the U.N. refused to go into detail on the issue. However, Turkish officials said it was usual for aspirant host countries to offer such incentives and that this was not a case specific to Turkey.

“[There is] a financial package which I don’t want to go into detail [about],” Malhotra said when asked about the incentives.

“They made an offer to help us with this decision because otherwise there is no reason for us to move, but it is part of Turkey’s overall ambition to play a major role in the U.N. which as you know, is also linked to Turkey’s bid for the U.N. Security Council and also to make Istanbul a hub,” he said.

Both Malhotra and the Turkish diplomat emphasized Turkey’s rising profile as a donor country not only with its humanitarian assistance efforts but also with contribution to global development.

“To relocate to Istanbul from Bratislava obviously could not be made unless we knew what the financial package was. That was a decision made already before,” Malhotra said.

The UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre supports 25 countries and territories in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). If it eventually moves to Istanbul, it will not be the first ever U.N. office in Istanbul. Since 2011, the Eastern Europe and Central Asian Regional Office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been located in Istanbul.

U.N. Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, is also considering whether to open a regional office in Istanbul while the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has already appealed to the Turkish government to open a center for regional competitiveness in Istanbul.