The World Humanitarian Summit, a United Nations conference that focused on reforming the traditional humanitarian system, was held in Istanbul on May 23-24. Hosted by Turkey, about 60 state and government presidents attended the summit, which sought solutions particularly in the field of humanitarian aid, focusing mainly on Syrian refugees.
It was the first conference concentrating on the issue of humanitarian aid. The organizing of such an event for the first time undoubtedly shows a common disgrace. It is hard to answer why such a conference has been organized so late given that millions of people have had to flee from their homes and take refuge in other countries in recent years. The gravity of the situation becomes more apparent if we remember that more than half of Syria, the population of which was more than 20 million before the civil war, has had to leave their homeland during the war.
Speaking at the summit's closing ceremony, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's remarks summarize the insensitivity of developed countries to the greatest demographic mobility humanity has seen since World War II: "The money we are trying to mobilize [for humanitarian aid] is just 1 percent of global, annual military spending."
Everything that can be said on the greed of the Global North, which owes its prosperity to the exploitation of the Global South, has already been said. On the other hand, some argue that such events and institutions like the U.N. require scrutiny above all.
Independent writer Ian Birrell is one of them. He claims that the summit will not achieve so much, drawing examples from the U.N.'s terrible record in Africa and the EU and the U.S.'s neo-colonialist policies
Birrell is right. It can even be said that the examples he gives of aid institutions focusing on profits instead of bringing solutions are very well-meaning.
The international community has to develop formulas to resolve the actual problems such as horrendous infant mortality rates and mass migration, which affect the entire world. In other words, we do not have the luxury to sit back and pontificate about tangible conditions.
Turkey is one of the most solid examples that show that something can be achieved while radically criticizing reality.
Being in a disadvantaged position compared to other G20 countries since it has been dealing with urgent problems including national income and terrorism, Turkey has almost shouldered alone the common responsibility of humanity.
Having taken in about 2.7 million Syrian refugees as of today, Turkey has so far spent about $10 billion on them. It must be kept in mind that Turkey also tackles some other socio-economic problems while hosting this amount of people, which is as many as the population of a small European country.
So, what is the secret to it? Is it President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ability to allocate funds and resources for such issues by effectively managing the welfare his political success brought? Or is it the ever present sharing culture of the Middle East?
Definitely neither. If either were the case, we would see a similar performance on the issue from Saudi Arabia, whose economy is at least as good as that in Turkey. Or we would see Iran being more active in aiding refugees.
The secret is the long-term humanitarian development model Turkey has achieved to implement. The government, which was able to increase its support from 20 percent to 40 percent inside the country for the last 14 years, is performing the same management for its refugee policies. The government model regards disadvantaged and less fortunate groups as a source to organize daily life practices in the long run rather than a burden to be shouldered.
The following years will demonstrate that Turkey is doing the right thing by embracing helpless people, unlike Europe, which lately has become more introverted by protecting its borders with barbed wire, as in Idomeni.