As the Syrian refugee crisis worsens, it is clear that the global humanitarian system has failed. Although there have been attempts to help, nothing close to an overall, concrete solution has surfaced. The humanitarian space is the physical geography in which aid is provided in various forms by those who can afford to help in order to address humanitarian problems. Emergency situations, i.e., natural and man-made disasters, put pressure on the humanitarian system to identify the borders of this space. However, in real terms, such space has been continuously redefined and restructured by the humanitarian system.
The notion of the humanitarian system has thus turned out to be nothing more than popular terminology, a system we take for granted, put into place by the endeavors of the U.N., international organizations, nation-states and humanitarian nongovernmental organizations. An industry of humanitarian and developmental aid has emerged that determines the nature of humanitarian interventions mostly in a competitive mood. The spirit of competition does not serve the greater good in an increasing number of cases. Additionally, the political interests of the actors are at the apex of the hierarchy of the humanitarian system.
Traditional donors in the Western/Northern hemisphere, emerging donors in the Global South, and newcomers from the periphery have separately defined humanitarian spaces of their own with differing priorities. However, these various attempts do not constitute a meaningful operational space. This is evident in light of the failing humanitarian response to tragic situations such as the Syrian refugee crisis.
The reasons for this failure center around two issues in mainstream thought. First, lack of cooperation and coordination, and second, a lack of official and civilian capacity for a functional humanitarian system. In other words, the actors of the humanitarian system have failed to coordinate with each other and cannot raise enough interest to generate help for their interventions.
Although it is not yet in total disrepair, the humanitarian system cannot address human suffering in different regions. The focus on structures, financing and capacities is not enough to recalibrate the existing system. Further, despite the emergence of different actors from different regions, the humanitarian space is shrinking. It is now time to humanize the system, if it is already not too late. Human consciousness should surface on a systemic level, remembering that the individual self has been at the center of civilizations and all other human good through history.
There is need for a holistic approach to humanitarian aid, but it should emerge from the human consciousness rather than the specific interests of states and/or large corporations. We must begin to think that it is not voluntary but necessary to help others. Indeed, to help others is to help one's self. The responsibility to protect the humanitarian sense belongs to people and the individual self. Only after people begin to care for others can we create a system that will begin to put an end to human suffering.
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) engages in both humanitarian aid and development cooperation. TİKA offers a holistic approach to pursuing multiple activities in order to help alleviate suffering while planning and building a sustainable future for the communities in focus. The rationale behind this is Turkey's humanitarian diplomacy, which is human-centered and undertaken with the notion of avoiding dualities in the international system such as interests versus ideals. India has another successful model of humanitarian and development aid with a positive impact to preserve humanitarian space. The emerging roles in this field promise much to provide additional aid capacity in an era of perception of helplessness in the humanitarian theater.
Such humanitarian diplomacy is mobilized with the consciousness of the Turkish people. So far, Turkey has embraced almost 2 million Syrian refugees. And in response to the increasing impact of societal demands on foreign policy, Turkey has opened up to new regions in Africa, Asia and Latin America, providing humanitarian and development aid to people in these areas of the world. The motivation is not self-interest, although Turkey does make political and social gains by expanding its own humanitarian space. A similar perspective taken in the overall humanitarian theater will help reverse the deteriorating humanitarian situation and will restore global consciousness. Once human consciousness is taken into consideration in humanitarian projects, the world can create a new humanitarian vision and, accordingly, mechanisms and policies to alleviate the sufferings of many people around the globe. Through such an endeavor we may also discover the concept of "us" again.