Imagine throwing a huge fundraiser. You proudly plan it for months. You invite all the must-have, high-society elites. On the big night, the place is packed, but at the last minute the big spenders — the ones you really want — don’t show. Turkey knows the feeling.
Turkey hosted the first UN World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24 in Istanbul. Former Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan had predicted in January that “all state and government heads will be coming to Turkey.” But they didn’t come.
Official figures from the United Nations were otherwise impressive, showing that 9,000 people from 173 countries attended, including about 50 presidents, prime ministers and ministers or their deputies. Participation from Europe was limited; most of the European countries that attended were those affected by the Syrian refugee wave.
The political heavyweights were noticeably absent this week: Britain, France and China were not represented at all, and the United States and Russia sent delegates at the undersecretary and deputy minister levels. It was no surprise that Russia didn’t send a high-level emissary, given its frosty state of relations with Turkey, but many were hoping the US president would attend.
The US Agency for International Development announced earlier this month that it had suspended assistance to Syrians in Turkey because of corruption. Doctors Without Borders pulled out of the summit, saying it had lost hope that the event would tackle the weaknesses of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities.
In a press conference at the end of the summit, President Erdogan criticized the G-7 countries (United States, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom) for not participating, saying, “It is sad that leaders of G-7 countries, other than [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, have not attended.”
Referring to the 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) the EU had pledged for the refugees, Erdogan said, “We see that their promised support has not materialized. My colleagues say 1 billion euros will arrive before July. Turkey is not asking for charity. This support is for the people in the camps.”