“Having experienced all kinds of disasters on a national and global scale, 2020 has been recorded as one of the most important turning points in world history.”
We have all read similar phrases to the one above throughout the year due to the economic, sociological, psychological and medical effects endured internationally due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in modern times, we have witnessed a global shutdown of communal living spaces, schools and places of worship. This is the first time that the world has experienced such a mass and powerful pandemic since the Spanish flu.
With business lockdowns and restrictions on people physically going into offices, other people have had to expand the scope of their work. These were humanitarian workers and volunteers.
Humanitarian workers and volunteers have had to increase their working hours, diversify resources and efforts and have had to differentiate channels to reach the most affected and vulnerable people in the most affected areas. In doing so, along with protecting themselves, aid workers and volunteers displayed tremendous efforts to deliver aid and support to people in need in a swiftly manner.
We’ve prepared the Turkey Humanitarian Action Overview 2020 in order to hold a lens to and systematically analyze the significant developments experienced in Turkey in the field of humanitarian aid in 2020. We realize that experiences and efforts made this year are historical milestones and that it is important to have a common medium compiling the lessons learned throughout these experiences.
Under the headings of disaster, migration, social work, volunteerism, public health and international aid, this Overview aims to present and assess the significant developments and applications Turkey has implemented within these fields in 2020.
When organizing the articles, we followed a method based on consistent and valid academic knowledge and evaluations aware of the importance of the experiences of actors in the field. In this context, this Overview brings together the evaluations of professionals who work in national and international institutions, public institutions and in non-governmental organizations. An important reason for this was to arrive at competent conceptualizations and evaluations on the subjects addressed and to capture a rich and diverse perspective. In order to ensure that such a perspective is delivered, authors contributing to this publication were all derived from different areas of expertise, with different titles, legal statuses and focus of activity. All contributing authors are individuals who work to serve people in need and work to relieve human suffering.
We have compiled the relevant statistics and data by scanning the media and archives on the subjects examined and have included this information within this publication for those who are interested to be able to form a holistic photograph.
The Turkey Humanitarian Action Overview 2020 consists of two main sections: academic assessments and institutional evaluations. Academic assessments focus on developments that occurred in 2020 under the headings of disaster, migration, volunteerism, public health, social services and international aid; the Elazığ and İzmir Earthquakes, the floods in Giresun, and the avalanche disasters in Van were among the major disasters experienced in Turkey in the past year. Beyond affecting the people who were infected, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on other areas of the health system has also revealed situations that policy makers need to consider. While topics on immigrants and refugees living in Turkey with various statuses stood out on the issue of migration management, the irregular migrant problem experienced in Edirne on the border with Greece in March 2020 in particular was recorded as the year’s significant development on migration. Being the world’s leading country in humanitarian aid spending, Turkey’s efforts within the scope of fighting the pandemic on a global scale and efforts to continue other aid work in different countries are developments that stand out in the issue of international aid. The developments experienced on the matter of volunteer services, which is one of the most important aspects of humanitarian aid efforts, is another reminder of the potential volunteerism has in Turkey and of the steps that need to be taken in this regard at the institutional, legal, and cultural levels. Social work studies conducted for reducing the impact the pandemic has on disadvantaged groups and the evaluations of institutions carrying out these studies stand out as another issue demonstrating the importance of rights-based social policies.
The section on institutional evaluations features the assessments of institutions and organizations that maintained activities in the field throughout the year. In assessments carried out in cooperation with public institutions, international institutions, and non-governmental institutions, the following themes stand out: protecting the safety of employees and volunteers, developing funding sources, crisis communication, volunteerism, experience sharing, advocacy, conservation activities, social impact, and humanitarian finance. In addition to the summary framework presented above, the overview also attempts to answer the following questions:
- What disasters and humanitarian crises were experienced in Turkey and the world in 2020?
- Which issues stood out in the fields of disaster, public health, migration, volunteerism, social services, and international aid in Turkey in 2020?
- How have humanitarian agencies operating in Turkey maintained their efforts in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020?
- Which lessons have humanitarian agencies operating in Turkey taken from their experiences in 2020?
- How have institutions that have various sectoral, organizational, and legal statuses intervened in humanitarian crises in 2020?
We hope that the Turkey Humanitarian Action Overview 2020 is beneficial to all concerned, especially researchers and humanitarian workers.
Turkish Red Crescent Academy