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Can Turkey Inspire? Part II -- Turkish Civil Society: From Black Sheep to Synergy in the Black Sea

Can Turkey Inspire? Part II -- Turkish Civil Society: From Black Sheep to Synergy in the Black Sea

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This policy brief encourages Turkish NGOs to become more involved in the greater Black Sea region.
This policy brief encourages Turkish NGOs to become more involved in the greater Black Sea region.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Sep 27, 2011
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09/27/2011

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Summary:
Turkish civil societyis lagging behind in terms of grasping the reform agenda of,and sharing causes and visionwith, counterparts in the widerBlack Sea region. It is important that Turkish civil society belinked in the process of shaping a common future across theregion. Partly due to Westernfacilitation and donors, anincrease of Turkish civil societyinvolvement in the region canindeed be observed. However this engagement should becharted with more deliberative,systematic, and sustained effort.
Analysis
Can Turkey Inspire? Part II Turkish Civil Society: From Black Sheep toSynergy in the Black Sea
by Diba Nigar Göksel
September 26, 2011
 
Offices
Analysis
Promoton o European modelso governance n the EU’s Easternneghborhood may have so arhad lmted success
1
but the valueo sharng knowledge and havngnetworks among NGOs, youth actv-sts, academcs, and journalsts n thelong term s crucal or when othereconomc and poltcal developmentsare rpe or change. o help steer therse n urkey’s engagement n theregon, t s mportant that urkshcvl socety also be lnked and sharen the buldng o a common utureacross the geography t straddles.urksh NGOs have not beennstrumental n shapng the cvlsocety agenda n the regon. Tey have also rarely been a part o Westernntatves to support the transtono the ormer Sovet space or thepast 20 years. Te weak levels o urksh NGOs’ and ntellectuals’nvolvement n the transton debateso ther counterparts n Georgaand Azerbajan, two countres wthwhch other blateral tes are strong,depcts the unused potental. Terealty that nether urksh meda nor
1
Nicu Popescu & Andrew Wilson, “Turning presence intopower,” http://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR31_ENP_AW.pdf 
polcymakers are geared at captalzngon the eld experence o cvl socety eeds nto ths trend.Te act that urkey s perceved by ts neghbors to be closer (n many senses o the word) than other Euro-pean countres can boost the ablty o urksh cvl socety to set a postveexample. Ts also makes sense roman EU perspectve because EU support(nancal, techncal, and poltcal) hasshaped and empowered urksh cvlsocety to drve urkey’s transorma-ton snce the late 1990s. I urkshNGOs that have been a part o thsprocess act as multplers n the regon,EU nvestments could be captalzedon more ecently.Furthermore, urksh democratzatontsel s an oen tul work n progress.Includng urksh NGOs n Black Seantatves that oer learned lessonsand soldarty or cvc actvsm canbe used towards overcomng urkey’sremanng challenges. Moreover, ncountres where urksh cvl socety lnks are partcularly weak, such asMoldova and Ukrane, EU rame-works can acltate the buldng o networks. Such exposure may rase the
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Analysis
2
 
Analysis
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 urksh publc debate on Western “mperal nten-tons” n ths neghborhood.Partly due to Western acltaton and donors, a pattern o ncreased urksh cvl socety nvolvement n the regoncan ndeed be observed. However a stronger vson andmore systematc, eectve plans or engagement n theregon are stll needed to sustan ths trend and make themost o t.
Turkish Absence to the East
In the md 1990s, the urkish political leadership declaredloy 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 inrastructure, education,diplomacy, and economic links were orged to this end,urksh manstream NGOs and lberal ntellectualsremaned relatvely absent rom the revampng o cvlsocety among ther Eastern neghbors. In other words,creatng trade, nvestment, nrastructure, and culturaltes dd not translate nto the transer o models or cvcpartcpaton. Whereas, wth the proleraton o cvlsocety organzatons n ths regon — albet wth lmtedeect on polcymakng — nterest n and demand or teswth urksh counterparts has been on the rse.In Azerbajan, a country wth close cultural and lngustcanty and strong penetraton o urksh busness, schools,and entertanment, cvl socety across the board hasbeen eager to nvolve urksh counterparts or know-howor support or ther causes. Whle Azerbajan NGOshave ound receptve partners among European and U.S.counterparts, urksh NGOs have been all but absent.In Georga, Rose Revoluton reorms as well as a ree tradeagreement and lng o vsa requrements wth urkey have led to a surge o urksh busness presence n Georga.However, whle European and U.S. NGOs wegh n on theheated debates about Georga’s economc models, the ghtaganst corrupton, or human rghts, manstream urkshNGOs have been detached. urksh manstream NGOnderence to the pressng questons o ts neghbors salso refected n the lack o analytcal coverage o relateddevelopments n the urksh meda.
2
 
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 ther eastern neghbors has been the domestcagenda n urkey and related constellaton o urksh cvlsocety actors (see part 1 o ths artcle seres at http://www.gmus.org/cs/publcatons/publcaton_vew?publcaton.d=1915). Another reason s that Western state nsttutonsand donors ordnarly excluded urksh NGOs romprograms that oered opportuntes or NGO nteracton nths regon.urkey’s relatve level o economc development and notbeng “post-Sovet” ruled t out o most ntatves.
3
oths end, part o the problem may have been urkey’sdesre to derentate tsel rom ts eastern or MddleEastern neghbors, or the sake o ts mage as a developed,European country. But there were also alse assumptons
2
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.
3
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.
 
Analysis
3
 
Analysis
on the part o donors that perpetuated ths dsconnect. Forexample, t was oen presumed that urksh manstreamNGOs already had nroads and tracton n Azerbajan, thusnot needng the acltaton o Western vehcles. urkey 
 fell between the cracks
n countless regonal NGO collaboratoneorts rom the md 1990s onwards.Tough ther nterest has been on the rse recently, urkshNGOs have lttle knowledge o ther eastern neghbors’domestc dynamcs, are nexperenced n transerrngmodels n general, and are curbed by language barrers.In ths sense, GMF’s Black Sea rust or RegonalCooperaton (BS) has begun to ll an mportant vodn recent years. By abandonng the dvsve and outdated“post-Sovet” characterzaton and ncludng urksh cvlsocety nto ts scope, BS, along wth ntatves by newEU member states,
4
plugs urksh NGOs nto the agendao ther counterparts n the regon, breakng urksh NGOsout o ther black sheep status n the wder Black Sea.Besdes grant-gvng oundatons, Western thnk tankshave also recently ntensed ther ncluson o urkshanalysts n ther regonal work. European and U.S. polcy nsttutes are ncreasngly openng branch oces nurkey or ncludng urksh researchers n analyss o neghborhood-related questons. urksh experts are alsobeng ncreasngly recruted as traners n capacty-buldngoutreach to EU neghbors on ssues such as poltcal party campagn or NGO project management. By contrast, 10years ago, progressve urksh cvl socety or academa
4
Such as the Black Sea NGO Forum initiative of Romania since 2008.
Turkish NGOs have littleknowledge of their easternneighbors’ domestic dynamics,are inexperienced in transferring models in general, and are curbedby language barriers.
representatves had vrtually no opportuntes to contrbuteto the pro-West reorm agenda o neghbors.Other Western regonal ntatves osterng dalogue andcollaboraton should ollow sut, most notably the cvlsocety dmenson o the EU’s Eastern Partnershp (EaP)program, whch was launched two years ago.EaP’s Cvl Socety Forum brngs together NGOs romthe EU’s sx eastern neghbors, along wth EU-based cvlsocety organzatons n order to oster networkng andknowledge transer. But as an EU canddate, urkey’s NGOsslp between the cracks.Geographcally and conceptually, t seems sel-evdent thatncludng urksh NGOs n ths ramework would havemutual benets and ade n realzng the
 potential synergy
 between urkey and the EU n ther jont neghborhood.Ultmately, the Brussels bureaucracy — nstruments,programs, or department demarcatons — should be nstep wth and advance the Unon’s dplomatc goals (emore collaboraton and strategc dalogue n neghborhoodpolces wth urkey) by enablng urksh NGOs to besystematcally ncluded n ntatves, databases, andplatorms where the neghborhood’s NGOs gather to“Europeanze.”Ts year’s Cvl Socety Forum meetng wll take place nWarsaw on September 29. Notably, urksh NGO represen-tatves wll not be present n ths cvl socety componento the Eastern Partnershp, whch wll take up ssues suchas judcary and publc admnstraton reorm, as well ascross-border ssues such as trade and envronment, whchntrnscally relate to urkey too.
Conclusion
urksh NGO nvolvement n the Black Sea regon s onthe rse. Ts s, though, qute a recent phenomenon andhas not yet taken on a le o ts own. radtonally, urkshNGOs have not been plugged nto the transnatonal democ-racy support networks and do not have domestc resourcesthat can be earmarked to human rghts agendas abroad.o contnue and consoldate the recent pattern o urkshNGO engagement nto sustanable lnks and convergenceo vsons, proactve support rom Western oundatonsand ntatves s mportant. For the EU to nvte urkshNGOs to take part n EaP cvl socety platorms would

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