Turkeys Humanitarian Policy: Changing Concepts, Scale and Goals

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2022-66-6-102-111
S. Sherstyukov, ssherstyukov@hse.ru
National Research University Higher School of Economics, 17 Malaya Ordynka Str., Moscow, 119017, Russian Federation.

Received 29.08.2021. Revised 14.03.2022. Accepted 06.04.2022.

Acknowledgements. The article was published with the support of the project “The Impact of the Policies of Iran and Turkey on the Transformation of the Middle East and the Post-Soviet Space” conducted by the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs of the National Research University Higher School of Economics.

Abstract. This article aims to delineate the place of humanitarian aspect of the foreign policy of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP). It traces the main objectives and actors of Turkish humanitarian policy, as well as ways of conceptualizing it. The OECD Development Assistance Committee classified a group of countries as “new donors” in the 2000s. However, the growing activity of these donors as subjects of humanitarian diplomacy still demands thorough research. Turkey’s experience seems particularly interesting as an example of a country that remains a recipient of humanitarian aid itself, yet has over the years emerged as a major donor of international humanitarian aid. The Covid‑19 global pandemic and Turkey’s response to this challenge both provides new answers and raises new questions about the nature of Turkish humanitarian policy and the motives, tools, and driving forces behind it. Since the AKP came to power, humanitarianism has become one of the foundations of Ankara’s foreign policy. The changes in Turkish humanitarian policy since the end of the Cold War have been the result of a profound and multifaceted transformation not only of Turkish society but also of the Turkish state. The official narrative describes Turkey’s humanitarian policy in recent decades as a success story, but despite a number of achievements, this policy faces a number of internal and external challenges and constraints. The shift towards authoritarianism in recent decades, the accumulated economic problems, and the increasing polarization of Turkish society are factors that have an increasingly negative impact on the attractiveness, sustainability, and ultimately the effectiveness of Turkish humanitarian policy.

Keywords: Turkey, Justice and Development Party, TIKA, NGOs, Humanitarian Policy, Erdogan, Islam, “new donors”


1. Ozturk A. Erdi. Islam and Foreign Policy: Turkey’s Ambivalent Religious Soft Power in the Authoritarian Turn. Religions, 2021, vol. 12, iss. 1, 38. DOI: 10.3390/rel12010038

2. Shlykov P.V. Eurasianism and Eurasian Integration in the Political Ideology and Practice of Turkey. Comparative Politics, 2017, no. 1 (8), pp. 58-76. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.18611/2221-3279-2017-8-1-58-76

3. Alieva A.I. Modern Foreign Development Assistance Approaches of the Turkich Republic. Moscow University Bulletin. Series 25. International Relations and World Politics, 2017, no. 1 (9), pp. 56-92. (In Russ.) Available at: https://fmp.msu.ru/attachments/article/446/%E2%84%961_2017ALIEVA_RUS_1.pdf (accessed 20.03.2022).

4. Akpınar P. Turkey’s Peacebuilding in Somalia: The Limits of Humanitarian Diplomacy. Turkish Studies, 2013, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 735-757. DOI: 10.1080/14683849.2013.863448

5. Mehmetcik H., Pekel S. The Determinants of Turkish Foreign Aid: An Empirical Analysis. Turkey’s Political Economy in the 21st Century. Parlar Dal E., ed. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, pp. 195-213. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-27632-4_8

6. Xiaoli Guo. Turkey’s International Humanitarian Assistance during the AKP Era: Key Actors, Concepts and Motivations. Asian Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, 2020, vol. 14, iss. 1, pp. 121-140. DOI: 10.1080/25765949.2020.1728974

7. Altunişik M.B. Turkey as an ‘Emerging Donor’ and the Arab Uprisings. Mediterranean Politics, 2014, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 333-350. DOI: 10.1080/13629395.2014.959761

8. Sucuoglu G., Stearns J. Turkey in Somalia: Shifting Paradigms of Aid. South African Institute of International Affairs, Research Report 24, 2016. 50 p. Available at: https://cic.nyu.edu/sites/default/files/publication_turkey_somalia_shifting_paradigms_aid_sucouglu_stearns_final_web.pdf (accessed 21.09.2021).

9. Zengin H., Korkmaz A. Determinants of Turkey’s foreign aid behavior. New Perspectives on Turkey and Cambridge University Press, 2019, no. 60, pp. 109-135. DOI: 10.1017/npt.2019.1

10. Kavakli K. C. Domestic Politics and the Motives of Emerging Donors: Evidence from Turkish Foreign Aid. Political Research Quarterly, 2018, vol. 71, iss. 3, pp. 1-14. DOI: 10.1177/1065912917750783

11. Tank P. Turkey as a Humanitarian Actor: The Critical Cases of Somalia and Syria. Report. Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF), March 2015. 5 p. Available at: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/e322a62c1a18b503d37ca6dca4b2188b.pdf (accessed 21.09.2021).

12. Rysabeck-Smitch H. History and Principles of Humanitarian Action. Turkish Journal of Emergency Medicine, 2015, vol. 15, suppl. 1, pp. 5-7. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5505/1304.7361.2015.52207

13. De Lauri A. Humanitarian Diplomacy: A New Research Agenda. Chr. Michelsen Institute, CMI Brief no. 2018:4, 04.06.2018. 4 p. Available at: http://hdl.handle.net/11250/2500227 (accessed 21.09.2021).

14. Tabak H. Manifestations of Islam in Turkey’s Foreign Policy. Domestic and Regional Uncertainties in the New Turkey. Tabak H., Tufekci O., Chiriatti A., eds. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017, pp. 85-104. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322952005_Manifestations_of_Islam_in_Turkey's_Foreign_Policy (accessed 21.09.2021).

15. Yavuz M.H. Nostalgia for the Empire: Politics of Neo-Ottomanism. New York, Oxford University Press, 2020. 317 p.

16. Cevik S.B. Turkey’s State-Based Foreign Aid: Narrating “Turkey’s Story”. Rising Powers Quarterly, 2016, vol. 1, iss. 2, pp. 55-67. Available at: https://rpquarterly.kureselcalismalar.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/vol1.2-Senem-Cevik.pdf (accessed 21.09.2021).

17. Davutoğlu A. Turkey’s humanitarian diplomacy: objectives, challenges and prospects. Nationalities Papers: The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity, 2013, vol. 41, no. 6, pp. 865-870. DOI: 10.1080/00905992.2013.857299

18. Alieva A.I. “Soft Power” in Foreign Policy of Modern Turkey. Moscow University Bulletin. Series 25. International Relations and World Politics, 2014, no. 3, pp. 63-94. (In Russ.) Available at: https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/myagkaya-sila-v-sovremennoy-vneshney-politike-turtsii (accessed 20.03.2022).

19. Taşkın Y. Populism in Turkey: Historical and Contemporary Patterns. Oxford Handbook. of Turkish Politics. Tezcur G.M., ed. New York, Oxford University Press, 2020, pp. 1-20. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190064891.013.4

20. Capan Z.G., Zarakol A. Postcolonial colonialism? The case of Turkey. Against International Relations Norms. Epstein Ch., ed. London, Routledge, 2017, pp. 193-210.

21. Yeşiltaş M. Turkey’s Quest for a “New International Order”: The Discourse of Civilization and the Politics of Restoration. Perceptions: Journal of International Affair, 2014, vol. 19, iss. 4, pp. 43-75. Available at: https://dergipark.org.tr/tr/pub/perception/issue/48963/624625 (accessed 21.09.2021).

22. Donelli F. Features, Aims and Limits of Turkey’s Humanitarian Diplomacy. Central European Journal of International and Security Studies, 2017, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 59-83. Available at: https://cejiss.org/images/issue_articles/2017-volume-11-issue-3/59-cejiss-cejiss-0317-electronic.pdf (accessed 21.09.2021).

23. Gilley B. Turkey, Middle Powers, and the New Humanitarianism. Perceptions: Journal of International Affair, 2015, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 37-58. Available at: http://www.web.pdx.edu/~gilleyb/TurkeyHumanitarianism_Gilley.pdf (accessed 21.09.2021).

24. Haşimi C. Turkey’s Humanitarian Diplomacy and Development Cooperation. Insight Turkey, 2014, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 127-145. Available at: https://www.insightturkey.com/articles/turkeys-humanitarian-diplomacy-and-developmentcooperation (accessed 21.09.2021).

25. Karahan H. The Quest for a New International Aid Architecture: The Turkish Experience. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 262 p. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-50442-7_1

26. Binder A. The Shape and Sustainability of Turkey’s Booming Humanitarian Assistance. International Development Policy. Revue internationale de politique de developpement, 05.02.2014. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4000/poldev.1741

27. Tabak H. Broadening the Nongovernmental Humanitarian Mission: The IHH and Mediation. Insight Turkey, 2015, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 193-216. Available at: https://www.insightturkey.com/file/235/broadening-the-nongovernmental-humanitarian-mission-the-ihh-and-mediation-summer-2015-vol17-no3 (accessed 21.09.2021).

28. Cevık S. B. The Benefactor: NGOs and Humanitarian Aid. Turkey’s Public Diplomacy. Cevık S. B., Seib Ph., eds. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 121-152.

29. Korkmaz A. Zengin H. The Political Economy of Turkish Foreign Aid. Turkey’s political economy in the 21st century. Parlar Dal E., ed. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, pp 133-161.

30. Celik N. İşeri E. Islamically oriented humanitarian NGOs in Turkey: AKP foreign policy parallelism. Turkish Studies, 2016, vol. 17, iss. 3, pp. 429-448. DOI: 10.1080/14683849.2016.1204917

31. Şen O. Conceptual framework of Turkey’s humanitarian assistance during the COVID‑19 pandemic. International Journal of Social Sciences and Education Research, 2020, vol. 6, no 1, ss. 140-149. (In Turk.) DOI: 10.24289/ijsser.735531

32. Altunısık M.B. Turkey’s Humanitarian Diplomacy: The AKP Model. Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI Brief, no. 08), September 2019. 5 p. Available at: https://www.cmi.no/publications/file/6973-turkeys-humanitarian-diplomacy-the-akp-model.pdf (accessed 21.09.2021).

33. Sonmez M. Turkey’s religious agency grows even richer, more powerful. Al-monitor, 13.05.2021. Available at: https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/05/turkeys-religious-agency-grows-even-richer-more-powerful (accessed 21.09.2021).


1. Development Co-operation Profiles 2021. Turkey. OECD iLibrary. Available at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/714276e8-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/714276e8-en (accessed 21.09.2021).

2. Turkish Emergency Humanitarian Assistance. Republic of Turkey. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Available at: http://www.mfa.gov.tr/humanitarian-assistance-by-turkey.en.mfa (accessed 21.09.2021).

3. “5th International Benevolence Awards” are granted to the winners. 18.03.2019. 5 p. Available at: https://www.diyanet.gov.tr/en-US/Content/PrintDetail/25439 (accessed 21.09.2021).

4. TICA. 2020. Annual report. Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency. Ankara, 2020. 89 p. (In Turk.) Available at: https://www.tika.gov.tr/upload/sayfa/FAAL%C4%B0YET%20RAPORU%202020/TIKAFaaliyet2020Web.pdf (accessed 21.09.2021).

5. Turkey – Africa Relations. Republic of Turkey. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Available at: https://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkeyafrica-relations.en.mfa (accessed 21.09.2021).

Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Sherstyukov S. Turkeys Humanitarian Policy: Changing Concepts, Scale and Goals. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2022, vol. 66, no. 6, pp. 102-111. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2022-66-6-102-111

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment






Dear authors! Please note that in the VAK List of peer-reviewed scientific journals, in which the main scientific results of dissertations for the degree of candidate and doctor of sciences should be published for the “MEMO Journal” the following specialties are recorded:
economic sciences:
5.2.5. World Economy.
5.2.1. Economic Theory
5.2.3. Regional and Branch Economics
political sciences:
5.5.4. International Relations
5.5.1. History and Theory of Politics
5.5.2. Political Institutions, Processes, Technologies


Current Issue
2023, vol. 67, No. 9
Topical Themes of the Issue:
  • Contradictions and Conflicts in the Multilateral Trading System 
  • Global Climate Agenda: Big Gamble 
  • South Asia in Regional and World Politics 
  • Social Policy and Public Administration Ecosystems
Submit an Article
The Editorial Board invites authors to write analytical articles on the following topics:
  • changes in the processes of globalization in modern conditions
  • formation of the new world order
  • shifts in civilization at the stage of transition to a digital society

The editors are also interested in publishing synthesis articles / scientific reviews revealing the main trends in the development of certain regions of the world - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, etc.