States as “Humanitarians”: The Turkish Brand of Humanitarian Diplomacy

Şeyşane V., Şeyşane G. T.

Marmara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilimler Dergisi, vol.10, no.1, pp.153-178, 2022 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier


Humanitarian diplomacy refers to a distinctive form of diplomatic activity undertaken by various actors to protect human life and dignity in situations where they are under threat. Initially, the concept was more associated with humanitarian non-governmental organizations and some UN agencies. However, today, an increasing number of states adopt humanitarian diplomacy as a foreign policy instrument and portray themselves as global humanitarian actors. Over the last decade, Turkey has also emerged as one of the major actors in the field of humanitarian assistance, and humanitarianism has become a central theme in the discourse of Turkish foreign policymakers. Most notably, the Turkish government has officially placed the concept of humanitarian diplomacy in its foreign policy agenda. Therefore, this article seeks to analyze the recent emergence of Turkey as a global humanitarian actor and explore the main characteristics of the ‘Turkish brand of humanitarian diplomacy.’ For this purpose, it offers a three-pillar approach to assess the individual state practice of humanitarian diplomacy and discusses how Turkey’s general humanitarian policy resonates with the three pillars of state-led humanitarian diplomacy. It also examines its humanitarian responses to Somalia and the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar as case studies. State-led humanitarian diplomacy has further deepened the politicization of humanitarianism and the standardization of the humanitarian system in the post-Cold War period. In this context, the article concludes that Turkey’s adoption of humanitarian diplomacy has contributed to these two global trends, both by associating humanitarian diplomacy with broader political issues and political goals and by helping the institutional capacity-building of the international humanitarian aid system.