The majority of Turkey's aid goes to Syria. Here, flour bags are loaded for Syrian refugees at the border between the countries. Photo: Lynsey Addario, Flickr


Turkey: a new humanitarian superpower?

Turkey was the world's sixth largest donor 2017. Taking into account the country's GDP, Turkey provides the fourth most aid in the world. According to Turkish professor Meliha Benli Altunışık Turkey has become a great humanitarian power. 

The major shift in Turkey's aid policy took place in 2012, when the aid budget doubled. The budget has since continued to increase year after year. Several researchers has noted, however, that aid in the immediate region is provided mainly for security reasons and for the purpose of stabilizing the region, which is now an official aid policy for Turkey. Sedar Cam, CEO of the authority coordinating Turkish aid (TIKA), said the following in a interview 2018:

“Assistance must be planned and facilities must be maintained. At the same time as helping another country, you are indirectly preventing potential conflicts at the border and in the region. ”

The increase in aid after 2012 will be understandable when the policy on aid for security reasons is combined with the Syrian civil war that broke out in 2011. Syria has since been at the top of Turkey's list of recipient countries. In 2017, 91 percent of Turkey's aid went to Syria.

If Syria is excluded from Turkey's aid budget, the total aid provided by Turkey has decreased, despite the fact that the number of countries to which Turkey provides aid has increased from just over 100 to 165 since 2011. It is also misleading to compare Turkey's aid levels with other countries. much of what Turkey reports as humanitarian aid spent within the country, especially on Syrian refugees.

The huge increase in Turkey's aid budget may therefore need to be taken with a pinch of salt. The claim that Turkey has become a humanitarian superpower with empathy as the driving factor is easy to question as the real increase in aid did not take place until Turkey's own borders were threatened.

The graph shows Turkey's total aid per year. Data taken from TIKA's reports 2012–2018. By: Jakob Öberg
The graph shows Turkey's total aid per year when Syria is excluded as a recipient country. Data taken from TIKA's reports 2012–2018. By: Jakob Öberg

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