Last October, with his wife and several ministers in tow, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became to first non-African world leader to visit Somalia in the last 20 years. Erdogan's visit has actually turned out to be more than just window dressing: in recent months, Turkey -- which had previously not been a major player in international relief work -- has taken the lead in providing aid in the war-torn country, in the process earning plaudits from both locals and other international organizations.
With a one-day summit on Somalia, which will gather leaders from some 50 countries and international aid organizations, scheduled to start tomorrow in London, the "Turkish model" of aid appears to be of particular interest. From a new BBC report that looks at Turkey's humanitarian work in Somalia:
In the months since the militant Islamist group, al-Shabab, was finally pushed out of the city by African Union soldiers Turkey has emerged as the most visible foreign presence in Mogadishu - if you discount the green armoured cars belonging to the AU force (Amisom), which still growl their way through the busy streets.
While most foreign organisations remain cooped up at the heavily guarded Amisom base by the airport, some 200 Turkish nationals are now living and working in the city on a variety of projects, ranging from construction to logistics and aid.
"They are our brothers" is a common reaction from Somalis when the Turkish are mentioned.
Say you’re the leader of an impoverished country in a region known for bling envy. Your richer neighbors build themselves palace after palace; in twenty years of power, you’ve only managed to score one. But you’ve got well-heeled foreigner donors paying for your people’s most urgent needs. So how do you spend those extra millions sitting around?
Move over Uncle Washington and Aunt Brussels: The world's tallest flagpole, calculated to cost over $32 million, is being completed this week in Tajikistan’s capital,Dushanbe. At 165 meters, the structure takes the record from Azerbaijan (now three meters short), which took it from Turkmenistan last May.
What does $32ish million -- the figure is the reported cost of the Azeri flagpole, so add three meters and do the math -- buy in Tajikistan?
Humanitarian aid ready for shipment from Bishkek's Ala-Too Square.
In the past few days, many Bishkek residents have organized humanitarian relief packages to send to those affected by the violence in Osh and Jalal-Abad provinces. News of drop sites has spread quickly by word of mouth and through social networking sites. Today, I was handed a flyer that read:
“People of Kyrgyzstan – unite! Join the action ‘From hand to hand’ to provide humanitarian aid and collect items for the population of southern Kyrgyzstan. Aid collection – everyday on Ala-Too Square, from 9am.”
On June 14, the "April 7" youth movement, which is organizing the aid drop, had collected a growing pile of flour, pasta and medicine from city residents and group members.
Iskander Koichumanov, an April 7 member helping organize the collection, explained that the group is a network of around 25,000 students. It does not have any political aims, but was created to promote “development and stability in the country,” he said. When we spoke, he was helping arrange a truck to deliver the food and medicine to April 7 members in the South, who would distribute the packages to those in greatest need.
In humanitarian situations, however, relief aid is notoriously difficult to coordinate.
The April 7 members say they are operating independently of other groups that are also providing aid. In such situations, urgency often strains cooperation, particularly when a group feels that it can obtain the resources to mobilize aid on its own. Yet, multiple groups operating in the same space with no coordination mechanism can lead to further problems, experts say.