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The pursuit of peace requires enterprising foreign policy

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05 December 2018, MVT 15:53
People arrive to pray at the new Camlica mosque in Istanbul on July 1, 2016. Istanbul's towering Camlica mosque received its first worshippers, as Turkey unveils the latest grand project emblematic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's big ambitions. Erdogan personally supervised the controversial construction of Turkey's biggest mosque -- designed to accommodate up to 60,000 worshippers and visible to all from its perch on a hill on Istanbul's Asian side. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE
05 December 2018, MVT 15:53

Earlier this week, Istanbul hosted two separate yet interconnected international conferences on mediation.

One was devoted to the state of play in the conflict map and capacity for mediation within the membership of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), whereas the other adopted a broad scope and discussed the connections between sustainable development, peace and mediation; the ways to increase gender and youth inclusion in mediation processes; and a thought provoking session on the role of big data and artificial intelligence in conflict and mediation analysis.

Conferences are often dismissed on the basis of simply being 'conferences' and a perceived inability to affect change. However, the Istanbul Mediation Conferences proved rather influential in cultivating a shared understanding of issues and an agenda for action in the field of mediation and peaceful conflict resolution.

As the host of these conferences and the only country that co-chairs the Friends of Mediation Groups in three distinct important international organizations; United Nations along with the OIC and the OSCE, Turkey had the ability to share the findings of these conferences amongst these international organizations.

The fact of the matter is that humanity is facing a distinct challenge in the 21st century.

Just as many began to view the glass as half full, at least in terms of recent progress made in arena of international law, institutions, democracy and the rule of law, accountability, free trade, gender equality and others - it seems as though the empty half of the glass has begun to reassert itself.

The symptoms are known to all of us and need no reminding. Trade wars, new forms of international exploitation, geopolitical competitions, great power proxy wars, disintegrating nation-states, terrorism, xenophobia, animosity against Islam, raging inequalities and injustice count among the contemporary trends that ensuring that the glass remains half empty.

A hard truth we must accept is that the challenges of humanity are eating away the achievements and opportunities of humanity.

Which side will prevail?

According to Turkey, the answer depends on how we respond to challenges, including on how much we humans can work together towards positive outcomes.

One point is clear: unless we take initiative and become enterprising and humanitarian ourselves, all that is bad will prevail. Turkey made it apparent that the wait-and-see attitude is no longer tenable. Policy options differ from mediation to actual use of force against terrorists.

Take the situation in Syria. Turkey’s enterprising and humanitarian approach cleared a total of 4000 square kilometres from two terrorist organizations, DEASH and PKK/PYD/YPG.

Had turkey not intervened, their people would have been under continued assault from these terrorists and a political solution to the Syrian tragedy would have been unreachable.

Turkey is doing utmost to relieve humanitarian suffering, hosting the greatest number of refugees worldwide, spending more than the biggest economy in the world as the world’s top humanitarian spender. Turkey is also brokering agreements that save tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives and promoting a political solution based on the territorial integrity of neighbouring Syria.

The example of Syria here is paramount. That is, Syria demonstrates to us once again that prevention is important because once the fire of conflict engulfs a nation, then the only thing that remains predictable is that there will be unpredictable consequences on that state.

One generation of citizens will be wasted in one way or the other; the future will also be bleak. Everyone, including those who are thousands of kilometres away will come to suffer, either in the form of terrorist threat, economic shock, irregular migration, or wounded human conscience.

If prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts are of paramount importance, then it must be taken seriously. This appreciation is driving Turkey’s efforts in the field of mediation as the co-chair of the UN, OSCE and OIC friends of mediation groups and the host to a capacity building mediation training program and the two mediation conferences organized in Istanbul this week.

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