December 25, 2012

Turkey: A Problematic Emerging Donor

Emerging as a donor is one thing, but operating as an effective one in the field is a hard task for Turkey at this time.
The history of ODA dates back to the emergence of nation states, however the first organized attempts to program, coordinate and monitor the ODA started with the establishment of OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD/DAC) in 1960. The DAC is still operational and shall be regarded as the framework organization of traditional donors. The ODA practices of traditional donors have evolved over time in relation to the political and economic concerns of the period. The Second World War, the Cold War, the Post-colonial period and the end of the Cold War are the milestones with respect to the evolution of ODA in time. Throughout these periods the ODA practices were shaped in parallel to diplomatic, security and economic priorities.

The researchers started to investigate this policy field starting from the 1940’s thus we have dependable  information and knowledge with respect to the ODA starting from the end of the Second World War.
1941 Lend and Lease Act of the US, 1948 Marshall Plan towards Europe shall be regarded as the first forms of ODA in contemporary ODA history. A more simple form of ODA shall also be observed in the post-colonial relations between the colonial powers and former colonies. The colonial powers used the ODA as an instrument to sustain the dependency of their dominions. During the cold war, the ODA transformed into an effective tool towards the proxy states and thus this period shall be better understood under realist conceptions. In this regard, ODA has been an effective tool of 3rd world politics and an instrument of modernization in the 3rd World. Today, although realist conceptions could be helpful in understanding the ODA, we can also observe some liberal conceptions in ODA operationalization, especially in complex political emergency situations such as refugees, genocide, human trafficking etc.
In 2000s, the era of tied aid started to be a form of ODA and fear of terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan brought security concerns within the context of the ODA. Poverty, good governance, cash on delivery policies of donors, rentier states shall be identified as the new trends in ODA.
 In recent years, we also witnessed the diminishing role played by the traditional donors and the emerging role of non-DAC donors like China, Brazil and Russia. In this vein, the changing power relations and its effects on ODA allocation and ODA’s effect on changing power relations are worth noting.
Turkey’s Early Efforts
The disintegration of the Soviet Union as well as the breakup of Yugoslavia which lead to the emergence of new states in the former Soviet territory and the Balkans are considered as  milestones for Turkey’s ODA practices. This period resulted in Turkey’s initiation of almost the first organized attempts to provide ODA to the newly independent states. This was also the time when Turkey became an active member of the donor community with its growing amount of ODA.
Turkey has been providing development assistance since the 1970’s. But its first observable attempts to provide ODA dates back to 1980’s in the aftermath of a military coup and the adoption of an export led strategy. In this regard, Ankara launched a program worth of $ 10 million, aiming at the Sahel countries in 1985. The scope of the program was limited to countries in the Sahel region namely Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, Somali, and Sudan. The reason behind this new initiative can be attributed to the foreign policy priorities, which involved the promotion of Turkey’s positive image worldwide, its integration into the world economy, and the use of aid as an effective instrument to enhance Turkey´s commercial ties relations with especially less developed African countries.
The legitimacy concerns of the ruling military administration in the 1980’s might have also played a role in launching this program, because the pledge to launch an assistance program to Sahel Region was given in an Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting. So the program was not only based on economic grounds but there is also political motives behind it. In addition to political motives, geographical proximity as well as close historical and cultural ties also sparked Turkey’s interest to these regions. As a result, Turkey’s ODA was institutionalized with the establishment of TIKA (Turkish International Development and Cooperation Agency).
Drawbacks of the Contemporary Turkish ODA
In twenty years’ time, Turkey’s ODA scope and activities have been diversified and also spread through the Central Asian Republics, the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions. The Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Sub-Saharan African countries and some small island states became a area of interest in recent years as well.

The Turkish ODA steadily increased through years with a sharp increase in 2004 as the result of TİKA’s collecting and publishing ODA data in accordance to the OECD DAC Guidelines. (see here) Despite years of experience and allocation of a huge amount of money (1.226 billion USD- in 2011) from the national budget, it could be argued that Turkey’s ODA is still a problematic area and have certain drawbacks and paradoxes. These can be summarized in three bullets;
-First, the ODA in Turkey lacks a grand strategy, plan, vision and priorities and thus the project management is problematic in terms project identification, preparation, programming, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
-Second, there is institutional and legal disarray with respect to the ODA. The ODA towards other countries is being conducted in an less coordinated manner, mainly deriving from the deficiencies of the legal framework.
-Third, the allocation of ODA to different countries and sectors is based on cultural, political, ethnic and historical dynamics while the economic domain is being neglected in the allocation of resources.
Despite there is a downward trend in traditional donor behavior, Turkey’s ODA reached 1.226 billion USD in 2011. Although Turkey is still an aid recipient country, it is being classified as an emerging donor country since 2004. Turkey’s growing attention towards ODA and increasing amount of ODA is notable.
When we look at the distribution of Turkish ODA in 2011, we observe that the share of bilateral assistance is almost 90 percent while the share of multilateral assistance is only 10 percent, mainly regular allowances to international organizations. In our view, the underlying economic and political dynamics of the bilateral dominance in ODA composition and allocation needs a comprehensive research as well.
Turkey’s ODA policy is not clearly linked with the country´s trade and investment policies, in this regard the literature argues that the aid policy is under the dominance of the political dynamics and mainly linked with foreign policy. Contrary to the arguments; the political and strategic considerations as well as trade concerns with recipient countries are the main reasons for Turkey’s proactive foreign aid policy. ODA is being used as an instrument in attaining certain political goals in foreign policy and despite it has to be a newly emerging policy area that needs to be addressed thoroughly and be linked with not only the political domain but also the economic domain as well. Nevertheless, the “strategic depth” in Turkish foreign policy lacks an “operational depth” given the problems underlined with respect to the ODA. You can hardly find references to the foreign aid policy and TİKA as a responsible agency in the “Turkey’s 2023 Export Strategy and Plan of Action”.
Moreover, the project cycle is problematic, the projects being conducted by Turkish government are probably based on the demands and requests of the recipient countries randomly. In this regard it could be argued that there are no priorities or vision with respect to project identification and project development. The projects are identified either through a request from the recipient country or a call from the field office.
The projects are not program based but rather small projects to relieve the lives of ordinary people, there is no engagement in state building and/or policy level as well as assertive projects but rather projects concentrated on responding the urgent needs of people. Targeting people and satisfaction of the ordinary people´s needs seem to be reflected as the successful outcome of the projects but the results and the outcome in the long run and at state level are not in focus.
Articlespolitics think that Turkish government should empower Turkey’s main development cooperation institution TIKA with a proper mandate and a strong foreign aid legislation that would facilitate Agency's coordination role over other Turkish institutions, if it wants to be a sustainable and effective emerging donor.

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