The Turkish government is planning to turn Istanbul into a global humanitarian hub.
Wanting to export its expertise and experience on the issue to the world, Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) Director General Fuat Oktay said, adding that Turkey is introducing a “new approach” to providing humanitarian aid.“I may comfortably say that Turkey is far ahead of all countries, and even of the U.N., in humanitarian actions, thanks to the system we have developed, which is based on the principle of interoperability,”Oktay told reporters on the sidelines of preparatory meetings in Budapest for the next year’s World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be held in Istanbul.
The May 2016 summit will be a first of its kind, with the U.N., non-governmental organizations and private sector representatives coming together to discuss ways to bring about more efficient and better functioning system in the delivery of humanitarian aid. The summit is expected to contribute to Turkey’s efforts to turn Istanbul into a humanitarian hub. The country’s largest city already hosts a number of U.N. bodies, including the regional offices of the U.N. Development Agency, UNICEF, the U.N. Women’s Fund and the U.N. Population Fund.
“This summit will be another step toward making Istanbul and Turkey a humanitarian hub. Istanbul has become an important center in recent years,” Oktay said, adding that Turkey’s “increasing role in global affairs” and its response to the refugee crisis stemming from Syria and Iraq, as well as work elsewhere, are also important factors.
“Turkey is hosting more than 1,650,000 Syrians on its soil, as well as Iraqis. There is no any other country in the world that can handle this in the way that we are doing. We received 60,000 Iraqis over one night and 200,000 in only two days. This is a performance we should be proud of,” Oktay said, also citing the fact that Turkey has become the third largest humanitarian donor in the world after the United States and the United Kingdom.
‘The message Istanbul delivers to humanity’
As a crossroads of different cultures and faiths, Istanbul delivers an “important message to the humanity,” the AFAD head suggested.
“Istanbul is a city that has an important historical heritage as a crossroads of different cultures. The summit will not only seek to find how the humanitarian community will bring about a new system to provide effective aid, but also a new message about humanity itself. Turkey and Istanbul are the right venues for this, as we are the ones who suffer from the problems that humanity is creating,” he said.
‘We are touching the people’
The difference that Turkey has brought to humanitarian action system is not only the implementation of the principle of interoperability, but also its human contact with those who are in need.
“When we go to countries in need, we don’t just unload aid at the airport and leave the scene. We touch the people, share their suffering and stay in the field with them. We are doing this without it being expected,” Oktay said.
The principle of interoperability is a concept that the U.N. has long discussed but is already implemented by Turkish agencies, he stated.
“We have developed a very effective system. The Syrian case is just one indicator of this. We are the most advanced country to this end. We are openly declaring this to our interlocutors in New York, Geneva and elsewhere. We are proud of it. Thanks to this system, we can respond to any sort of disaster in any part of the world within 24 hours,” Oktay said, recalling that Turkish humanitarian agencies were among the first to reach out to the Philippines after it was badly hit by devastating flood disasters in recent years.
AFAD’s work with UNICEF aims to increase Turkey’s level of interoperability, allowing UNICEF to use its logistics in the event of disasters and thus respond more smoothly and effectively to international emergencies, he also stressed.