Focus Turkey: In Conversation with Toplum Gönüllüleri Vakfı (TOG)
Youth Policy Watch conducted an interview with Yörük Kurtaran from TOG to gain an insight into the situation of youth organisations in Turkey.
The Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sport has initiated local talks through youth centres to establish a national youth strategy, with meetings involving young stakeholders from across Turkey being set for Youth Week in May. Young people were recently invited to participate in a discussion on the creation of a new Turkish constitution at a meeting in Ankara. Many youth organisations however were excluded from this process. Concurrently, the Government is forming a national employment plan. With the government run youth centres, youth organisations fear that the government is attempting to shape young people according to their own policies.
For young people in Turkey, obstacles need to be overcome in order for them to actively participate in youth work. Relatively few youth centres operate across the country. Most universities forbid the formation of rights-based student organisations on campus. Young people setting up a youth organisation need to possess a residence to host the organisation to legally register the new youth organisation. Youth organisations focusing on ethnic or LGBT issues experience grave difficulties in attaining funding and achieving recognition for their work not to mention participating in discussions on youth policy. These organisations however still gain visibility in the mainstream by working in collaboration with other human rights based organisations.
While youth organisation cooperation needs to be developed at a deeper level, the past three years has seen greater collaboration between better-funded organisations. Last year TOG ran a campaign in conjunction with Habitat to lower the age to hold the office of Member of Parliament. Accessing limited government funds for youth work is a huge challenge for many youth organisations and local municipality funding is mostly in the form of in-kind contributions. Funding has to be secured from companies or international NGOs. For human rights programmes, funding can only be sourced from international NGOs. Many organisations develop ties with European youth organisations to gain access to European youth programmes and the opportunities they provide.