The Effect Of Soft Power In The New Public Diplomacy: Humanitarian Aid And Turkey’s Practice Worldwide

As a strategic communication tool,  public diplomacy, is defined as the sum of activities concerned with the "understanding, informing, and influencing public opinion". The aim of public diplomacy is not to encourage propaganda, but to build a strategic communication based on objective data and facts ,and to offer the service to different groups (Kalın, 2010). 

Public diplomacy activities are performed  within two main "state to public", and"public to public“. State to public encompasses the explanation of state policies, activities and initiatives led by the state to the international public employing directly official means and channells As for the public to public activies, it is essential to use civil agents such as  non-governmental organizations, research centres, public opinion research companies, the press, opinion leaders, universities, exchange programs, non-state associations and foundations. . In this regard, public diplomacy goes beyond the communicative activities taking place between diplomats and foreign public opinion. As such, public diplomacy entails diplomatic communication.  (Kalın, 2010).

Public diplomacy presupposes a double-sided communication and interaction The most important objective  is to listen to the audience addressed and to identify the priorities Listening to the audience, understanding what they tell, and being willing to communicate are as prominent as expressing ideas, explaning viewsi and conveying the ideas respectively. Another important factor of public diplomacy is the public opinion which is gradually taking a central role in the determination of national and international policies (Kalın, 2010).

Turkey does the humanitarian aids with the purpose of grabbing the attention of both both national and international public opinion, and not allowing them to ignore the human tragedy happening in a country.  In this study, soft power, a new concept in public diplomacy, Turkey’s historical soft power, and its effect on the world humanitarian aid will be explained.


In political science literature, power is defined as the ability to achieve the desired outcomes. In order to achieve those desired outcomes, a vast array of elements may be employed. First type of power is based on the use or the threat of the useof military force, which has had a prominent importance in old-fashioned and realism view. old type and realism in the sense of more importance is the use of force. Accordingly, a State may declare war on another State to do what he wants or what he wants from this country can pull off with the threat of war (Örmeci, 2014).

The intervention of the USA to Iraq with the purpose of controlling energy resources and changing the existent regime in Iraq may be given as an example. Within the view of that „hard power“, it can be stated that the USA is definitely a  world leader , however Russia, which has considerable advantages as result of the arnament race in the period of Cold War and its powerful military industry, has also a strong profile of hard power (Örmeci, 2014).

Second type of power is the use of force based on economic relationships.The use of that power involves the employment of strategic economic instruments of a country. Providing financial aid to a country suffering from an economic crisis or having a major investment in thatcountry will, for sure, provide an advantage to the country  in terms of the arrangement of the internal poltics of the other country. . Imposing economic sanctions on a country is also an example of that type of power. To illustrate, Russia manages the domestic poltics in Ukraine through taking advantage of the natural gas.distribution (Örmeci, 2014). However in 21st century, one of the most important strategies that states employ in order to become advantageous in their competition with each other, and becomes a necessity in today’s world is the use of soft power That concept was first put forward by Joseph Nye According to Nye the soft power emanates from the attractiveness of the culture, political values, and foreign policies of a country. When the culture of a country includes some universal elements, and is in harmony with shared values and interests, the probability of the desired outcomes increases. In this sense, soft power is the power that a country uses to make the other countries want what it desires. As the policy of a country becomes legitimate for others, the soft power of that country gradually improves  (Nye, 2004: 119).

 When we take a look at the implementation of soft power in the world, soft power is not defined as a passive concept, but as a mechanism in which all the power elements of a country including social, economic, socio-cultural, and military power are designed in a systematic way, and which has functions in support of the policy of the country. In other words, soft power is used within the framework of economic and military power when necessary. Today a number of countries‘ military forces have become a component of diplomacy and soft power. The positive relationships of armed forces  mutual training programmes, technological and doctrinal innovations,the defense industry and many other functions  contribute to to the country to the become a center of (Noya, 2005: 16).


The soft power of Turkey is different from other terms of both its format and scope. The power potential of Turkey, which starts from the Balkans, and entends over the Central Asia, comes from its cultural and historical richness rather than its military or technological superiority (Kalın, 2010).The values represented by Turkey in the region, its historial and cultural richness not only stipulates the regional dynamics, but also provides an opportunity to create new areas of interaction. It is the Ottoman experience built and shared by Turks, Kurds, Bosniaks, Albanians, Circassians, Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Arabs, and Kyrgyzs, Uzbeks, Kazaks, Turkmen and other ethnic groups living on the wide area extending from the Balkans to the Middle East and Asia. What brings those differents groups togethers is the Ottoman legacy that helps them to have a common understanding of the shared time and place (Kalın, 2010). Today, Turkey represents the central geography of that heritage. However, it should be noted that it is not an adventure of imperial power under the name of -new-Ottomanism- as claimed. On the contrary, what is currently being experienced along with the aforementioned geopolitical understanding, and global development provides the people in the region with an opportunity to be in peace with its background.  (Kalın, 2010). Therefore, Turkey with its well-known features such as hospitality, generosity, and helpfulness helps out each country in need without having imperial purposes.

Thus, it is no big surprise that an annual report by Global Humanitarian Assistance concerned in 2014 Turkey ranked third in the world in terms of the nominal values with respect to humanitarian aid distributed to Syria and other countries hit by crises or natural disasters.  However, it must be noted that Turkey ranked first in the world in terms of the gross national product and became the most generous country and surpassed the USA regarding the humanitarian aid beyond the world (GHA Report, 2014), (Yeni Şafak, 2015).


The public diplomacy aspect of humanitarian aid has both good and bad sides. The bad side of it is that humanitarian aid can be regarded as a way for branding though it is an example of moral behavior. The good side of it is that it encourages other countries to provide humanitarian aid for the countries in need. In recent years, Turkey is a country which has become a world brand in emergency and humanitarian aid. For this reason, the United Nations decided that the World Humanitarian Summit will be held in İstanbul in 2016. This study explains Turkey’s practice of soft power on emergency and humanitarian aid which has  been given to a lot of countries such as Syria, Myanmar, the Philippines and those African countries suffering from Ebola in last five  years. It is hoped that this study raises the awareness of other countries with regard to humanitarian aid. 


Serdar TÜNEY, J.D. Student in Public Law

Legal Specialist at Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, Turkey.