Civil Society, Solution Partnerships and Sustainability

Okan Tosun
President of the Education, Research, Solidarity, and Search and Rescue Association (ANDA)

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia War have led the relevant actors to have a clearer understanding of global crises and emphasized the importance of exploring unconventional ways to address these issues. In this context, it is promising to see many institutions, both globally and in our country, beginning to structure their activities within the framework of social responsibility, even though we are still at the beginning of the road, for the common future of humanity.

As ANDA Association, we have also embarked on the journey to be part of the solutions to global problems within the ‘Government-Private Sector-Civil Society’ triangle. In 2014, as a group of volunteers, we set out with the aim of addressing the humanitarian problems arising from the ongoing civil war in our neighboring country, Syria. With the sincerity of the Turkish people, we became a non-governmental actor with the awareness of being a solution partner, extending from humanitarian aid to search and rescue. We achieved the status of a public-benefit association in November 2022 as the fruit of the steps taken in this adventure.

In this context, our humanitarian aid activities, which started as voluntary but irregular assistance without a specific concept in 2014, gained official status in 2016 when we acquired the identity of an association. Especially guided by the emphasis on education and access to education among global goals, in the same year, we opened the ‘Yayladağ Orphan Center’ and constructed the first of our sustainable repair centers to address the deep wounds opened during humanitarian crises. We conducted activities to nurture the hopes of people living in the Euphrates Shield and Peace Spring regions, accelerate their return to normal life, and create living spaces and capacity-building activities, especially for women and children. By the time we reached 2022, as a civil society organization of our country, we made significant contributions both domestically and internationally, delivering humanitarian aid to people in need.

In this context, we reached 713,000 people in Syria, Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and various African countries through activities carried out at the orphan center in Afghanistan, the Turkish-Afghan Friendship Center, and the work of teams sent directly to the region after the start of the Ukraine-Russia War.

On the other hand, the increasing number of disasters both in our country and around the world triggered our focus on search and rescue. Starting with the establishment of search and rescue teams and the initiation of training in 2017, our ANDA search and rescue and disaster response team, as of 2022, has completed the ‘AFAD Intermediate Search and Rescue’ accreditation process. We have provided training to 987 individuals in 32 provinces, and our semi-professional volunteer search and rescue team has participated in more than 1,000 disaster missions. With 250 disaster awareness trainers and a theater team, we have reached over 500,000 people nationwide, contributing to the development of disaster awareness on a societal scale by organizing disaster awareness training programs in our country as part of the ‘Disaster Drill Year.’

Our top priority in our efforts is to act with the motivation to find solutions to issues that concern all of humanity. We have observed that in the case of large-scale humanitarian crises, especially those based on disasters, placing the entire burden on the shoulders of relevant institutions alone does not provide a solution. Acting with this awareness, we have focused on building lasting relationships with stakeholders in the field in both humanitarian aid and disaster management efforts, aiming to provide permanent solutions.

In the geographical areas we reached for humanitarian aid efforts, we have designed permanent working areas through local partnerships. This way, we have brought humanitarian aid to crisis regions as a process of improvement and development. Beyond meeting the daily needs of local stakeholders, we have focused on supporting their learning and engaging them in every stage of the work, from management to production, in long-term processes aimed at cumulative value creation. As an anti-thesis to colonialism, we have prioritized efforts to help those in need heal during times of crisis with the vision of Turkish civilization, aiming to empower them with the skills, capacity, and experience necessary to sustain themselves when assistance is no longer available during the normalization process.

Within this context, we have provided capacity-building training and production workshops that support individuals affected by the crisis in all processes, from construction sites to educational fields, guiding them toward becoming active participants in their return to normal life according to their abilities.

As a result, we have transformed humanitarian aid into a tool of humanitarian diplomacy by approaching people in ‘victim geographies’ with an equal relationship, emphasizing peace and harmony in the future world through the efforts of Turkish civil society organizations and public institutions. In addition, we value partnerships that strengthen a solution-focused, collaborative, and sustainable approach in both search and rescue and humanitarian aid efforts through various multinational collaborations like the ‘EU Modex Exercise’ or partnerships with countries like Qatar, Syria, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine. We suggest that these processes be conducted with a partnership framework, both domestically and internationally, with local and foreign partners, in order to preserve human dignity and advance shared peace worldwide. We attach great importance to always being a part of such environments. In this context, we are developing collaborations with state institutions such as AFAD and embassies, as well as universities, both in Türkiye and abroad.

Therefore, the central focus of our work has always been sustainability. When we see the students of the first ‘ANDA Orphan Center’ established on the slopes of Yayladağı actively participating in various roles during crises such as earthquakes, floods, and fires in Türkiye, we experience the unique joy of reaping the rewards of these efforts. Seeing tangible outcomes of contributions from the civilian sector during crisis periods gives us a more hopeful outlook on the world of the future.

In our journey to become a civil society organization that embraces the principle of ‘Strong Türkiye in the Field and at the Table,’ we contributed a resourceful work to the literature in 2022 titled ‘Humanitarian Diplomacy Practices (Global Politics-Turkish Foreign Policy-ANDA).’ Within this framework, we planned to make positive contributions to enrich the literature from the civilian sector by supporting master’s and doctoral students with scholarship programs that will contribute to the construction of a permanent policy, in addition to humanitarian aid activities. Furthermore, we started publishing annual publications with a solution-oriented perspective on global and national issues, created by our youth organization, ‘Young ANDA’, which we see as the future actors of our association. We initiated this effort by publishing the first of these publications this year, presenting a semi-academic study offering additional permanent solution proposals to our fieldwork. We also continued our efforts to support areas where theory is put into practice, reinforcing the characteristic of civil society as an open university. This was especially evident in the post-pandemic period when our young team established libraries and organized youth camps in different cities across our country. In the future, we will strive to strengthen and expand these efforts.

Despite increasing humanitarian crises, conflicts, migrations, and disasters worldwide, we keep our hopes alive in the light of the gratitude of the Turkish people, who set a unique example for humanity. On the path of fraternity and solidarity, which we embarked upon with Ankara at the center, we aim to embrace the Turkish civilization’s understanding in a way that encompasses all of humanity.

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