Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has and will continue to have many social, political and economic consequences in our societies, in addition to our health.
In an environment where there is neither vaccine available, nor a treatment which is not difficult, painful or lengthy, it is clear that the impact of this pandemic will be severe in all these areas and that new codes of work and behavior will likely emerge.
Today, the pandemic is escalating into a humanitarian crisis in many countries, especially in the least developed countries. The basic rule in the fight against humanitarian crises is for the international community to act in solidarity by providing humanitarian aid to alleviate the severity of the crisis and contribute to the resilience of the affected people. In other words, it is not time for competition or arguments, but for solidarity.
In this process, Turkey, on the one hand, tries to effectively manage the outbreak in its own territory and, on the other hand, it also acts in the same way at international level. For example, Turkey has already provided tons of medical supplies, especially masks, to its 55 allies and friendly countries asking for help.
In the context of its active humanitarian diplomacy, as confirmed by the international community, Turkey stands as the world’s most generous donor country, both in terms of total global humanitarian assistance and in terms of its share in the country’s national income.
Despite all the challenges, Turkey has provided free shelter and care in all areas to more than 4 million Syrians and other refugees fleeing from other countries for many years while also helping in humanitarian crises emerging around the world.
Why we do this is very clear: humanitarian assistance is an international responsibility as well as a humanitarian obligation. In 2016, in partnership with the UN, we convened the world’s first and only humanitarian summit in Istanbul with a view to reflecting on possibilities how to better address all types of global humanitarian crises, including pandemics.
Today, Turkey, together with Belgium, is the co-chair of the Group of Friends of the Least Developed Countries at the UN. It is believed that Turkey and Belgium, which pursues an active diplomacy as a temporary member of the UN Security Council, can work together as regards the efforts in international solidarity and cooperation against the pandemic.
In this context, Turkey is indeed ready to work with active members of the international community, such as Belgium, to assist vulnerable countries to deal with the humanitarian crisis and pandemic so that they can recover, in particular, thanks to the development-oriented humanitarian aid program of Turkey.
In addition to these opportunities for cooperation with Belgium as our NATO ally and economic partner, Belgians who were stranded in Turkey and Turks who were stranded in Belgium were recently able to be repatriated by a plane, thanks to the efficient coordination between the two countries.
Besides, our people in Belgium act also exemplary in terms of solidarity. The first Turks who came to Belgium to work in the mines 56 years ago are today an integral part of Belgian society in almost all areas, from politics to economics, from health to culture. The vast majority also have Belgian nationality.
When the pandemic broke out in Belgium in March, the Belgian-Turkish community immediately mobilized itself, by supporting solidarity efforts in their own municipalities. In this process, regarding the outbreak, our Embassy has regularly informed from the outset, through social media, our nationals about the measures taken in Belgium, in particular about social distance and social isolation and encouraged acts of solidarity across the country.
In this process, our fellow citizens have started to distribute masks and food to all those in need (unemployed, elderly, rest homes, health workers, police, fire brigade, etc.) through their associations and in cooperation with the Turkish business community, regardless of whether they are Belgian, Turkish or Moroccan.
Our women support these campaigns by sewing fabrics and washable masks at home. All these solidarity campaigns encouraged by our Embassy are the source of happiness and honour for me as a Turkish ambassador.
These actions are perhaps the best examples in the history of the culture of living together between Turks and Belgians.
I am sure that responding to these acts of solidarity of humanitarianism in a similar inclusive way by the state and the authorities where the Turkish community live, would certainly better enhance the sense of living together and solidarity between our two peoples in Belgium.
It would also be an important message against the efforts to stigmatize communities in Belgium such as the Turkish one, in these difficult times, when social cohesion and solidarity are needed more than ever.
By Dr. Hasan Ulusoy, Turkish Ambassador to Belgium