Turkey’s Public Diplomacy Approach

Turkey has started to use public diplomacy in its modern sense and as a state policy for the first time during the AK party era. Institutionalization activities which enhance public diplomacy were also started to be realized in Turkey. In this regard, the Public Diplomacy Coordinator under the Prime Ministry, the Yunus Emre Institute and the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) have been established. In addition, TIKA (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency) the first soft power institution of Turkey (opened in the 1990s), has been restructured in order to adapt to public diplomacy. From this point of view, Turkey’s approach to public diplomacy, in the first instance, has taken the form of institutional structuring. Together with opening of new institutions which lead public diplomacy, measures were also taken to restructure old institutions.

Hand in hand with adopting the policy of public diplomacy in 2000s, AK Party leaders effectively propagate the idea of New Turkey to the world community. As a result of the transformative policies implemented by AK Party in domestic and foreign politics, since the middle of the 2000s, Turkey has begun to emerge as a rising power.

Here, the government has started to share its remarkable development experiences to the whole world in general and that of the Middle East in particular. In this respect, AK Party leaders have adopted the approach of propagating the Turkey’s model using public diplomacy as a strategy.

Within the framework of public diplomacy, AK Party leaders have put forward a perspective that claims a change in mentality within the administration. In this new perspective, Turkey forwards its foreign relations not based on security but on the basis of economic benefits. In this context, a policy of zero problems with neighbors has begun to be implemented in foreign policy. This is by addressing the problems with neighbors of Turkey and promoting mutual commercial relations based on the win-win strategy.

In addition, the introduction of a new foreign policy approach carried out by the methods of public diplomacy also assisted the image building and branding activities. In this context, AK Party’s foreign policy is marked as a very active foreign policy. Besides, Turkey’s humanitarian aid enabled it to build its image as a donor country. By applying a proactive diplomacy, Turkey has also emerged as a center country. Furthermore, promoting the idea of New Turkey using discourses such as wise country, model country, soft power, regional power and global actor under the public diplomacy strategy was also desirable.

The new public diplomacy institutions that were opened during the AK Party era have begun to carry out activities to promote the idea of New Turkey in different fields of the foreign policy axis. In this context, the Yunus Emre Institute, which was opened in 2009, has started to carry out the cultural diplomacy activities of public diplomacy. In this respect, Turkish foreign policy has also opened up to the cultural and social fields. In other words, Turkish foreign policy has begun to be diversified and carried out through socio-cultural and civil actors. In addition, the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities, which was opened in 2010, has started to carry out public diplomacy on the diaspora. On the other side, the Public Diplomacy Coordinator under the Prime Ministry, which was also opened in 2010, has introduced the strategy of coordinating Turkey’s public diplomacy from one center. In addition, TIKA, which was opened in the 1990s, was restructured in the context of public diplomacy in 2011 and has introduced a coordinated working system with other public diplomacy institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

As a result, Turkey’s public diplomacy in its modern sense and at an institutional and policy context has firstly begun to be implemented in the 2000s. When we compare with the global context, Turkey has entered the public diplomacy very late. The result of this is that Turkey is a new comer to public diplomacy and its culture has not yet well formed. Considering the relatively long time which is needed for any culture to be formed, time is also required for Turkey to nurture a culture of public diplomacy. Opening of a new institution by itself is not enough to implement public diplomacy. Rather, cultivating the human resource who will be responsible to execute public diplomacy needs maximum attention. Together with that, it is essential to use the public diplomacy to realize certain policies which may not be implemented just by using the existing institutions. For example, it is necessary to conduct the public diplomacy to deal with the Armenian issue, the Greek issue and terrorism as well. In this context, it can be concluded that Turkey still has to develop its public diplomacy capabilities.

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