The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) was established on January 24, 1992 in order to “[provide] development assistance foremost to developing countries where Turkish is spoken and countries that border Turkey as well as [improve] cooperation through projects and programs in economic, commercial, technical, social, cultural and educational arenas”.[1] TIKA currently maintains 21 coordination offices in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, and Europe. These strategic locations and the diversity of TIKA’s projects have allowed the agency to not only serve as an effective manager of Turkey’s development aid but to also become an important tool of Turkish public diplomacy.

Capitalizing on the potential of humanitarian assistance, reconstruction aid, and technical support to further the goals of public diplomacy has become common practice world-wide. In addition to running exchange programs and cultural activities, many countries have realized that highly visible humanitarian and development aid can bolster significantly a country’s international standing. The work of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the EU’s DG Development and DG ECHO are examples of how humanitarian assistance can help build the international prestige of a country or organization.

Although, the term ‘public diplomacy’ is never used to describe the activities of TIKA, the agency’s website defines development assistance as “a significant instrument that allows new avenues for classical diplomacy in economic, social, cultural and humanitarian fields”.[2] In many ways, the agency has assumed the role of a coordinator in reaching out to diverse geographic areas to pursue the interests of Turkey. In this sense, TIKA has a strategic mission to promote a positive image of Turkey and to establish durable relationships with foreign publics by demonstrating that “Turkey and Turkish citizens are standing by their countries”.[3] Although Turkey did conduct similar activities prior to the establishment of TIKA, the agency has begun to coordinate these initiatives so as to make Turkey’s efforts more cohesive and visible. As one Turkish journalist commented, TIKA now “acts as a pioneer unit, opening the doors for Turkey” and conveying the messages of Turkey through delivering aid.[4]

Generally speaking, TIKA’s role is to facilitate economic, commercial, technical, social, cultural and educational cooperation with developing countries via projects aimed at assisting the development of these countries. In accordance with this role, TIKA works to enhance infrastructure, improve living standards, provide vocational training and employment, protect monuments of joint heritage and culture, improve cultural relations, provide information and publishing services, and assist in the teaching of the Turkish language.[5]

TIKA has played a particularly active role in assisting the transition of the former communist states of Central Asia and Eastern Europe. As TIKA President Hakan Fidan acknowledges, Turkey took “advantage of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Republic of Yugoslavia to initiate projects that reach out to the countries which Turkey could not communicate with during the Cold War”.[6] Indeed, Turkey was one of the first countries that recognized and supported the independence of these nations and gave technical assistance to help maintain their independent status.

In Central Asia and the Caucasus, TIKA has implemented a number of communication and education projects, including the renovation of 3 schools in Georgia as part of the Social Infrastructure Development Project, technical equipment support for the establishment of computer libraries and reading lounges in Azerbaijan, a training seminar for teachers of Turkic languages in Afghanistan, the establishment of a computer laboratory for the Kyrgyzstan Police Academy, and the training of Kyrgyz radio and TV personnel.[7]

TIKA has also conducted similar activities in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. In Albania, for example, TIKA established a kilim (traditional woven Turkish rugs) weaving course in cooperation with an Albanian NGO to assist Albanian women in developing skills that would help support their families. During the course, women are educated about domestic violence, women’s rights, ethics, and illiteracy.[8] TIKA has also supported various communication projects in the Ukraine, including the establishment of the Crimean News Agency and the production of a documentary film.[9]

Although Turkey has traditionally given priority to building relationships with countries that share historic, cultural and ethnic ties with Turkey, TIKA has significantly increased its activities with the entire developing world in recent years. In 2005, TIKA worked with Ethiopia to provide technical assistance and expert personnel support for a media agency and equipment assistance to the Harari Region Council. In the Sudan, TIKA funded a project which improved the supply of drinking water. And in Palestine, TIKA recently delivered food aid to 80,000 people living in the Gaza Strip.[10]

Altogether, TIKA implemented 396 projects in Asia and the Caucuses, 256 projects in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, and 128 projects in the Middle East and Africa throughout 2006. In comparison to previous years, these figures indicate increases of 27%, 36%, and 185%, respectively.[11] In particular, the major growth of projects in Africa is the natural result of Turkey’s desire to diversify its foreign policy projects.

One effort of particular importance to Turkey’s public diplomacy activities is TIKA’s “Turcology Project”, established in 1999. In an attempt to encourage further study of the Turkish language and its relationship to similar languages and dialects, this project has aggressively worked to “widen the reach of the Turkish language, improve communications, and establish a shared cultural platform with neighboring countries.”[12] In other words, it aims to act as a method for enhancing relations with surrounding countries by creating a common lingua franca for use in business, politics, and civil society. Thus far, 18 Turcology Centers have been established in various universities in Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Mongolia, Palestine, Syria, the Republic of Tatarstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.[13] TIKA has also established 12 Turkish Language and Culture Centers in 30 universities across 18 countries as part of the project.[14] In public diplomacy terms, this large-scale and long-term project has been very successful and demonstrates the capacity of TIKA to play a crucial role in improving Turkey’s influence and reputation.


  1. “About TIKA”, TIKA, 10 October 2007
  2. Ibid.
  3. Hakan Fidan, Interview with TRT 1+100 program, TRT, 13 November 2007
  4. Hakan Fidan, Interview with Gunun Konusu, TRT 2, 10 November 2007
  5. “About TIKA”, TIKA, 10 October 2007
  6. Hakan Fidan, Interview with TRT 1+100 program, TRT, 13 November 2007
  7. “Asia&the Caucuses”, TIKA, 20 October 2007
  8. “Projects in Albania”, TIKA, 22 October 2007
  9. “Eastern Europe and the Balkans”, TIKA, 20 October 2007
  10. “Africa&the Middle East Region”, TIKA, 22 October 2007
  11. “Projects by Region”, TIKA, 20 November 2007
  12. “Turcology”, TIKA, 27 November 2007
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
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