Ambassador Tuncay Babalı's Speech At The Sixth Annual Turkish Canadian Youth Congress (12 January,2013) , 26.01.2013
His Worship Mr. Mike Savage, Mayor of Halifax,
Esteemed community leaders,
Today I feel genuinely privileged to speak before such a distinguished and vibrant audience at the opening session of the Sixth Annual Turkish Canadian Youth Congress organized by the Council of Turkish Canadians (CTC) here on the eastern end of Canada.
I would like to commend the organizing committee for their unwavering dedication over the past six years to raise awareness among the Turkish Canadian youth regarding the issues of common concerns for Turkey and Canada. The fact that the interest and the enthusiasm of the Turkish Canadian youth have never diminished in these years is a strong indication that these congresses are relevant and they address many issues facing our children in Canada.
I also appreciate that this year’s theme “Leadership for Social Change” addresses a very important and pertinent subject because in a vibrant country like Canada, Turkish community among other communities plays a constructive role in helping build a stronger and more prosperous country by reflecting our traditions, values, diligence and entrepreneurial skills in Canada. Therefore, I have no doubt that each and every one of you as young leaders of Turkish-Canadian community will find a niche in the multicultural structure of Canada so as to give back to the society which gave you so much so far.
I have arrived in Halifax right after the Fifth Annual Ambassadorial Conference titled “Humanitarian Diplomacy” held between January 2-7, 2013 in Ankara and Izmir. As the title implies, the concept of the conference reflect the human-oriented or rather human-centered quality of the visionary Turkish diplomacy that best defines compassionate and capable character of our country and that harmonizes our national interests and values.
Therefore, the conference wisely highlighted the need that within the context of rapid transformations in its vicinity, Turkey as a country which takes humane values as reference and manifests its will to use its resources and capabilities in this direction must continue to implement humane diplomacy effectively and resolutely in a large geography stretching from Syria to Afghanistan and Myanmar to Somalia.
Turkey is a strategically located, economically competitive and culturally inclusive country. It invests in dialogue, mediation, reconciliation and diplomacy rather than confrontation. Its role in its region and beyond is rightfully acclaimed by not only its neighbors, allies and partners but also and more importantly by the peoples of these countries.
As a G-20 member, 17th largest economy in the world, six largest in Europe, Turkey doesn’t stand idle in the face of deepening economic recession in the world. Turkey has been collaborating on how to tackle current financial crisis with its partners and extending its experience to countries which succumbed into not only financial but also political and social turmoil. Furthermore, in 2015, Turkey will take over the presidency at G-20. During its term, it will be able to bring a lot of pressing issues to the table that need urgent and careful attention.
Current economic wounds in the EU from Greece up to Ireland may not heal in a short period of time and may cause deep structural changes in the union. These challenges make Turkey’s membership in the EU all the more important for both sides. Therefore, if EU wants to be globally relevant actor, accession process must be approached with a farsighted vision not only by Turkey but also by entire EU countries.
Moreover, with its growing economy and solid financial system, Turkey offers a safe haven for foreign investment whose returns ultimately support the ailing economies of their countries of origin.
We all have been witnessing sweeping revolutions and overthrows of the authoritarian regimes in south Mediterranean popularly known as Arab Spring. During these turbulent times, Turkey has followed an entirely responsible foreign policy. First, it openly supported peoples’ demands for more democracy and political rights while trying to convince the old regimes to peacefully hand over the power through democratic elections. Although, as you all know, the events often unfolded in an undesired way, it is our strong belief that peoples’ will is going to emerge triumphant after these difficult times.
Turkey as a source of inspiration played a very important role in Arab people’s quest for more rights with its democratic regime and good governance. First, it never hesitated to support peoples’ democratic aspirations. Nor did it evade the burden that these developments have caused. Just as an example, as of December 31st, 2012, the number of Syrians who took temporary refuge in Turkey is over 220.000, almost 150.00 of which are sheltered in camps built by Turkish Government. The financial cost of refugees in the same period is well over half a billion US Dollars.
The last point I would like to make is that during these crises, Turkey was a beacon of hope for many countries all around the world in their endeavors to evacuate their respective citizens from conflict-ridden areas. For example, when the clashes escalated in Libya, Turkey evacuated 25.000 people in a week, among them citizens of third countries such as Great Britain, France, Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, Ukraine and Rwanda.
The role that Turkey plays in international stage has been further forged by its rising donor country status especially over the last ten years. It dispatches search-and-rescue teams to the calamity-stricken areas such as in Haiti and Pakistan and helps in disaster management, opens wells in drought-hit countries from Mali to Somalia, sends food and medical aid to people in dire needs. Turkish Red Crescent, Turkish International Cooperation Agency and Turkish Airlines have become immensely instrumental in achieving such noble tasks. Besides being a champion for humanitarian aid, Turkey also extends development aids to the developing and the least developed countries by building infrastructure, job training and experience sharing. The growing network of Turkish Airlines flights in Africa, Latin America and Asia is a facilitating factor in our endeavors to develop our relations with these countries. For example, Somalia has been further connected to the outside world by Turkish Airlines. This is of capital importance for Canada due to large numbers of Somalian Diaspora in this country.
The efficiency of Turkish humanitarian and development aids is also worth mentioning. Every dollar Turkish government or institutions commit goes to fund its mission without being eaten up by “administrative costs”. Considering that Turkey’s humanitarian and development aids have exceeded two billion UD Dollars, this approach has a great value in the field.
Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to claim that Turkey is literally everywhere in the world and has gained the trust of the world. As one Somalian man wisely put it: “Every country makes commitments but it is Turkey that honors its commitments”.
Turkey’s relations with the developing and least developed countries require that Turkey maintain a strong diplomatic presence in all these countries to coordinate these aid efforts. Parallel to Turkey’s growing economic and political influence, the number of Turkish diplomatic missions has grown by 25% over the last ten years making Turkey 9th largest country in the world in terms of the number of diplomatic missions around the world. By 2015, we expect the number of Turkish missions in the world to reach 230 making us 6th largest country in the same manner.
As you see from the power point presentation, overwhelming majority of these new missions are being opened in the countries of Africa, Asia and the Americas.
In order to address the problems facing these countries, besides tackling them on one-to-one basis, Turkey is also adamant to voice their concerns in international forums such as the UN. Having held one of the non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council for the term 2009-2010 after receiving record 151 votes from 192 countries, not long after, Turkey has announced its candidacy for non-permanent membership in the Security Council for the years 2015-2016. We are confident that given our record of honest broker at the Security Council in the years 2009-2010, when elected, Turkey will use this opportunity effectively in the pursuit of global peace, security and prosperity.
UN is a very important venue to achieve above mentioned goals for Turkey and Turkey brings out the positive energy among member states in different formats, the last example of which is “Trilateral Solidarity for Building Peace” which was initiated by the Turkish, Swedish and Brazilian Foreign Ministers in New York in September 2012 on the margins of the 67th UN General Assembly. Having come together on the occasion of the Fifth Annual Ambassadorial Conference, the Ministers reiterated their will to continue these trilateral consultations in a regular manner.
Due to the role it plays, Turkey has become a hub of diplomacy. It is almost impossible to keep the track of international events being organized in Turkey. Numerous international organizations have representations in Turkey. Istanbul is home to headquarters of many international organizations and MNC’s. As a city of axis of civilizations, Istanbul will emerge as a central city in the world.
We are also confident that with Turkey’s good records and place in economy, politics, finance and energy security, Izmir will be selected as the host city for EXPO 2020 due to its key position in North-South and East West axes.
The role Turkey plays in its region and beyond is appreciated by many countries including Canada. Canada shows keen interest in developing its bilateral relations with Turkey in all fields and in collaborating on many issues of common concern. For example, Canada’s Foreign Policy Plan which was disclosed in December 2011 defines more than a dozen country among them Turkey as priority countries for Canadian foreign policy. This is another proof from Canada that there is indeed an ample potential especially in the economic field among others between our countries which could not be fully exploited so far and that Turkey and Canada have similar views on many issues.
This manifests itself among other things in Constructive Powers Initiative which was launched by Turkey and Canada, and its first workshop was organized on June 2-3, 2011 in Istanbul. Constructive Powers Initiative tries to identify common security challenges that could benefit from policy coordination, and explore the relationship between the constructive powers and the G20. Besides Turkey and Canada, important global and regional actors like Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, South Africa, and Switzerland are parts of this initiative.
This interest shown by Canada culminated in the visit conducted by Turkish Foreign Minister H.E. Ahmet Davutoğlu to Canada upon the invitation extended by his Canadian colleague Honorable John Baird between September 19-20, 2012. On the occasion of the visit, two ministers inaugurated “Monument to Fallen Diplomats” erected in honor of Colonel Atilla Altıkat, Military Attaché of Turkish Embassy in Ottawa who was assassinated on August 27, 1982, reviewed the bilateral relations and pointed to the areas that can be enhanced and exchanged their views on many international issues like the current crisis in Syria. The visit created an opportunity not only to give momentum to our bilateral relations but also highlighted the value added by Turkey in international relations.
Furthermore, Senate of Canada initiated a six-month study to examine economic and political developments in Turkey, their regional and global influences, the implications for Canadian interests and opportunities in November 8, 2012. This study is expected to end in March 2013.
We also witness a growing interest in Turkey among Canadian academic circles. Universities across Canada disclosed their interest and intention to launch modern Turkish studies some of which are already materializing.
Before I conclude, allow me to say a few words in Turkish at this point:
Kanada’da Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Büyükelçisi olarak göreve başlamamın hemen ardından, bu kongre vesilesiyle sizlerle bir araya gelmekten büyük mutluluk duyuyorum.
İlk kez katıldığım, “Toplumsal Değişim Hedefli Liderlik” temalı kongre, Kanada-Türk toplumunun içinde yaşadığı topluma yapmakta olduğu katkıları daha sistematik hale getirme gayreti ve iradesini yansıtması bakımından oldukça önemlidir. Ayrıca, sizlerin büyük çoğunluğunun mezuniyetinizin ardından Kanada’da kalacak olması bu kongreyi daha anlamlı kılmaktadır. Dünya tarihine iz bırakmış bir ulusun çocukları olarak, sahip olduğunuz toplumsal ve kültürel genlerin Kanada’nın çok kültürlü yapısına büyük katkılar sağlayacağından kuşkum bulunmamaktadır.
Sizlerden bir önceki kuşak, akademi, bürokrasi ve iş dünyasında değerli bireyler yetiştirdi. Sizlerden beklentimiz sözünü ettiğim alanlarda sayınızın artması ve aranızdan bazı gençlerin federal ve eyalet düzeyinde politikaya atılmasıdır. Bu konuda büyük hayaller kurun. Bu hayallerinizi gerçekleştirmenizde yanınızda olacağız.
Having looked at the list of speakers, I am confident that you will find this congress to be very rewarding. I hope you will make new friends, learn new perspectives and take back with you many positive memories as well as useful points that will energize your friends who could not come here today.
Let me conclude by thanking the organizers, the speakers and you all for coming together for what promises to be wonderful event.