UNDP Chief: Turkey can play a huge role in the global arena

20 Jul 2011

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UNDP Administrator Helen Clark gives an interview to the Turkish Journal published for the Turks living in the US and evaluates the activities of UNDP in Turkey and the achievements of development efforts.

Ankara - Helen Clark also said, Turkey can play a huge role in the global arena. Below you can find the interview published in the newspaper on July 15, 2011.

Text of the interview

Turkey is a nation with the largest landmass in Europe and the Middle East. Bordering a number of nations including Syria, Greece and Bulgaria - and with close proximity to major Asian markets – it is a country that has been reinventing itself for almost a decade, and is poised to become a formidable force in the global arena.

The country, famed for its East meets West outlook, has also received kudos from a major player at the United Nations, (UN) – United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Chief, and former prime minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, who told the Turkish Journal that the UN has some very interesting and unique projects in Turkey.

The UNDP chief remarked: “People see Turkey as a country on the move,” and she added that, “very exciting things are being done in Turkey.”

Clark mentioned that what is most impressive is the sweeping modernization in Turkey. She also said that Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has achieved a great deal and that “one cannot fail to be impressed at what he’s achieved in many issues.”

Not only has Turkey begun to lead the way in industry and firmly established itself within the EU Customs Union, it is also a nation whose government has proven it has the staying power to negotiate and mediate conflict within a region that must maintain a very delicate political balance with its diverse neighbors.

On the radar of many business executives, Turkey is a major trading partner and claims a vast archaeological history with a multitude of resorts and historical tourist attractions that draw visitors from as far away as Australia, Canada and Japan

According to Clark, Turkey is a nation that is getting top priority from the UNDP and though the U.N. has worked in Turkey for “decades” Clark remarked that new initiatives have been signed and are now being implemented.

UN joint programme in Kars

One of those initiatives capitalizes on Turkey’s vast cultural heritage with a unique program in Kars – a remote city in eastern Turkey, made famous by Orhan Pamuk’s novel “Snow.”

She said: “We looked at revival of some of the crafts and ancient ways we do things. UNESCO has a whole convention on cultural heritage.”

As Clark explained: “In Turkey itself, we’ve worked on a lot of things over the decades. There is a very exciting initiative in Kars around cultural tourism. The area around Kars is one of those areas that hasn’t gone ahead. Turkey is looking at how do we grow our regions and Kars was selected as a site for a joint U.N. initiative.”

That initiative, Clark said, includes focusing in on cultural heritage as the program in Kars is doing. One unique cultural activity includes a literary tour that visits places where famous authors from the 19th century lived and wrote. She said you can even do a literary tour tracing all the places mentioned in Pamuk’s novel “Snow.”

Clark said this initiative also includes focusing in on ancient traditions in Turkish culture that are specific to Kars: “We saw the production of smoked goose, which is a specialty in Kars.” The smoked goose is sold to restaurants, she said. Ancient cheese making is another tradition being promoted.

As the UNDP chief added: “We promote what is really special and unique in this area, so Kars can tell a story and what is unique and phenomenal about this story.”

Clark explained the approach at the UNDP with various initiatives: “The approach we tend to take, we celebrate where people have achieved things.”

Private sector in development

Another crucial area where the UNDP is working closely with Turkey is in the private sector in development, Clark said. She mentioned that there is a major effort to try and “enhance the benefits” of private sector activity for development: “We work to show companies how they can be profitable and how communities can be part of the value chain of the international companies and large national companies.”

In May, the U.N. jointly announced with a senior Turkish minister, the establishment of an international UNDP policy center in Turkey that would focus on the private sector’s role.

The policy center’s role includes focusing on development to enhance the beneficial aspects of the private sector activity for development, Clark explained. She also said the development aspect works to “show companies how they can be profitable and how communities can be part of the value chain of the international.”

UNDP work in Turkey is diverse – focusing on business, the environment, culture and issues impacting Turkish society such as women’s issues and programs that promote and empower individuals and communities.

Women issues in Turkey

As Clark explained: “We met women involved in women’s empowerment initiatives and we’re working with women. Women’s issues will be what we continue to do in Turkey. There’s a lot of debate in Turkey about the headscarf and the status of women.”

The UNDP head praised Turkey as a country where people enjoy lively debate on a variety of issues: “People see Turkey as a country on the move and it has its issues and it debates them. It’s seen as a country that’s going places.”

She added: “Turkey is a middle income country. We get involved with their environmental and building issues like poor insulation. You can do quite a lot to lead the way on energy efficiency. We worked with the Turkish government on its climate change initiatives, developing its plans of action.”

Another sector the UNDP is involved with, is Turkey’s justice system where they deal with certain aspects of the system such as access to justice.

The UNDP Chief commented: “Very exciting things have been done. UNESCO, UNICEF and UN Women are part of everything we do.”

Clark said Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan and his family are very conscious, concerned about and involved in women’s issues. She said they have discussed this at length: “I met the prime minister on several occasions in 2005 and I have hosted he and his wife and ministers in New Zealand. In March, he opened the Leaders of Change Summit. I met him with his daughters in March. In that meeting, we discussed a lot of women’s issues. I think you can say the prime minister has voices at home, very helpful voices including those of his wife.”

The UNDP chief feels Turkey is a vibrant nation that can play a larger role on multi-levels and has a unique drive and force to do so.

As she explained, there is a huge future awaiting Turkey: “I think Turkey is in so many senses, a bridge country – a country which aspires to enter the EU and personally, I hope it can, I think everyone does. When you go to Turkey as I’ve done, you become very conscious of the major civilizations through the millennia that have moved backwards and forwards through Turkey. Istanbul is an international city that can bring people together for dialogue. I think there is a huge role for countries like Turkey.”