Civil Society and Media Studies Association (Civil Pages – Sivil Toplum ve Medya Çalışmaları Derneği) received a grant from our Izmir Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund to monitor and evaluate the activities of the Parliamentary Earthquake Investigation Commission which was established following the earthquake in İzmir in 2020 and to raise awareness on civil society participation in decision-making.
Read below our interview:
You recently completed the Parliamentary Investigation Commission Monitoring Project. Can you tell us about the activities of this project and the findings of the Civil Society and Earthquake Report?
In this report, we focused on the Earthquake Investigation Commission’s activities. We examined the minutes and tried to understand how the participation of civil society organisations (CSOs) in the Commission meetings and disaster/earthquake policies was regulated. Also, through social media campaigns and joint meetings, we tried to motivate the CSOs to contribute to the Commission’s activities.
In the national strategic plans on earthquakes, CSOs are defined as the subjects of the procedures before, during, and after earthquakes. There are “well-intentioned” policies for the equal participation of CSOs in these processes; however, these policies often remain on paper. We observed that CSOs were not considered equal stakeholders in the Commission’s meetings. Only a few CSOs were invited to the meetings and these were mostly the ones affiliated or cooperating with the public institutions, or they were professional organisations and chambers with compulsory membership policies.
CSOs can establish a significant network of relationships, however, due to mutual mistrust, differences in approaches or political differences, many CSOs face difficulties in collaborating even on fundamental issues like earthquakes. CSOs need to focus more on how to bring their expertise, knowledge, and skills to these channels.
CSOs should include disasters, earthquakes, climate crisis and pandemics in their policies, plans and programs, regardless of their field of activity.
You are working to improve public sector–civil society cooperation and to increase CSO participation in decision-making processes on earthquake preparedness. Can you tell us about your experiences?
As mentioned before, there are some technical and perceptual barriers that should be eliminated. Increasing the impact of civil society on shaping public opinion should be the most important agenda of CSOs. As seen recently in the wildfires in the Mediterranean region, people want to do something but feel desperate for not knowing how to create an impact. A great amount of effort is needed to steer this social will towards methods that can make a difference. The following suggestions can be listed to inspire the activities of CSOs:
CSOs working in the field of disasters and earthquakes should be mapped periodically at the local and national levels, and this information should be accessible to the public institutions, local governments, and all CSOs. CSOs should include disasters, earthquakes, climate crisis and pandemics in their policies, plans and programs, regardless of their field of activity. CSOs should also have emergency plans for disasters and earthquakes to deploy their sources and networks.
To overcome political conflicts and differences that prevent cooperation on vital issues such as natural disasters, CSOs can work to establish protocols between the central government, local governments and civil society. This way, the disruption of communication between stakeholders at earthquake sites can be prevented and potential conflicts can be resolved.
Turkey’s vulnerability to disasters is increasing with the climate crisis. Therefore, it is significant to support organisations working to involve disadvantaged groups in policymaking and to enhance the diversity of support provided after disasters.
How has the grant support you received from the Fund contributed to your work? What is your message to our donors who support the Fund?
With this grant, we raised awareness about CSO participation in policymaking regarding disasters, especially earthquakes. Similarly, we brought up the current situation of CSOs working in this field and their activities for reducing disaster risks. We had discussions about CSO participation with the members of the Parliamentary Commission. Turkey’s vulnerability to disasters is increasing with the climate crisis. Therefore, it is significant to support organisations working to involve disadvantaged groups in policymaking and to enhance the diversity of support provided after disasters.
The workshop we organised with the support of the grant brought together different CSOs that usually do not have contact in their daily activities and enabled them to get to know each other. Two deputies who are members of the Parliamentary Commission, an expert from the Association of Legislation, and officials from Izmir and Istanbul Metropolitan Municipalities attended the meeting. It is crucial for politicians and bureaucrats from local and central governments to meet with CSO representatives because such meetings create an opportunity to build relationships and a mutual understanding.
In the following days, in addition to increasing civil society’s impact and visibility, we will focus on expanding the civic space and creating a more enabling environment for civil society.
As an organisation working in the field of civil society journalism, can you tell us about the most frequently discussed issues on the civil society agenda lately?
The pandemic is still on the agenda, as is everywhere. CSOs are trying to make visible the inequalities that emerged with the pandemic and to find solutions, while at the same time struggling to ensure their own sustainability. Ecological problems that are increasing with the climate crisis, violence against women that is increasing with Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, and the refugee crisis are still on the agenda. Discussions about grants have also started in recent days. Transparency, the use of donations, and coordination – which are important matters for civil society– are also on the agenda of civil society because of the wildfires.
What will be the priorities of Civil Pages in the future?
In the following days, in addition to increasing civil society’s impact and visibility, we will focus on expanding the civic space and creating a more enabling environment for civil society. Also, our work on civil society journalism, which provides ground to convey the experience, studies, and recommendations of civil society to the decision-makers, will continue.
About Civil Pages
Civil Pages aims to make the experiences and work of civil society organisations in Turkey more visible to public authorities, media, and other CSOs using civil society journalism. For this purpose, Civil Pages provides a platform for CSOs where they can start or participate in discussions, share ideas, and express their opinions, and draws attention to both the thematic and cultural diversity existing in civil society in Turkey.