While European and U.S. NGOsweigh in on the heated debatesabout Georgia’s economic models,
the fght against corruption, or
human rights, mainstream TurkishNGOs have been detached.
level o urksh publc debate on Western “mperal nten-tons” n ths neghborhood.Partly due to Western acltaton and donors, a pattern o ncreased urksh cvl socety nvolvement n the regoncan ndeed be observed. However a stronger vson andmore systematc, eectve plans or engagement n theregon are stll needed to sustan ths trend and make themost o t.
Turkish Absence to the East
In the md 1990s, the urkish political leadership declaredloy ambitions or regional infuence in the newly independent region to its east. Western allies supportedurkey’s penetration into the post-Soviet space, not only or geopolitical reasons but also with the assumption thatgood governance practices, principles o liberal democracy,and market economy would fow rom the West through aEuropeanizing urkey to the Caucasus and Central Asia.In the decade to ollow, although inrastructure, education,diplomacy, and economic links were orged to this end,urksh manstream NGOs and lberal ntellectualsremaned relatvely absent rom the revampng o cvlsocety among ther Eastern neghbors. In other words,creatng trade, nvestment, nrastructure, and culturaltes dd not translate nto the transer o models or cvcpartcpaton. Whereas, wth the proleraton o cvlsocety organzatons n ths regon — albet wth lmtedeect on polcymakng — nterest n and demand or teswth urksh counterparts has been on the rse.In Azerbajan, a country wth close cultural and lngustcanty and strong penetraton o urksh busness, schools,and entertanment, cvl socety across the board hasbeen eager to nvolve urksh counterparts or know-howor support or ther causes. Whle Azerbajan NGOshave ound receptve partners among European and U.S.counterparts, urksh NGOs have been all but absent.In Georga, Rose Revoluton reorms as well as a ree tradeagreement and lng o vsa requrements wth urkey have led to a surge o urksh busness presence n Georga.However, whle European and U.S. NGOs wegh n on theheated debates about Georga’s economc models, the ghtaganst corrupton, or human rghts, manstream urkshNGOs have been detached. urksh manstream NGOnderence to the pressng questons o ts neghbors salso refected n the lack o analytcal coverage o relateddevelopments n the urksh meda.
Arguably the weakness o links between civilian actorsin urkey and these two countries also contributed tocases o strategic dri and communication breakdownin the course o urkey’s diplomatic activism in theregion rom 2008 onwards.
Why Left Out?
One o the reasons so ew urks seem to have taken part nthe causes o ther eastern neghbors has been the domestcagenda n urkey and related constellaton o urksh cvlsocety actors (see part 1 o ths artcle seres at http://www.gmus.org/cs/publcatons/publcaton_vew?publcaton.d=1915). Another reason s that Western state nsttutonsand donors ordnarly excluded urksh NGOs romprograms that oered opportuntes or NGO nteracton nths regon.urkey’s relatve level o economc development and notbeng “post-Sovet” ruled t out o most ntatves.
oths end, part o the problem may have been urkey’sdesre to derentate tsel rom ts eastern or MddleEastern neghbors, or the sake o ts mage as a developed,European country. But there were also alse assumptons
This is even more the case in Turkish civil society (NGOs, media, academia) engage-ment in Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus. Armenia on the other hand is a special case forwhich donor funding has actually enabled disproportionally high levels of NGO exchanges,dialogue projects, media coverage, and the like.
In the case of USAID funds, apparently Turkey itself opted to set itself apart from its“less developed” neighbors in terms of economic and political standards.