By Michael Dalmoak.
Tripoli, March 23: On Wednesday, a Libyan NGO, Free Women for a Libyan Future, was given 30 tonnes of food and other necessities to help poor families in and around Tripoli by a non-Libyan development agency.
Similar gifts are being provided by other agencies and governments all the time — although the fact that foreign agencies are still needed to provides such goods in what is a rich country confirms the continuing difficult conditions prevailing in Libya
In this case the agency was Tika, the Turkish Coordination and Cooperation Agency. Founded in 1992 to help development in the newly independent Turkic-speaking republics of central Asia following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it comes directly under the Turkish prime minister’s office. Since then, though, it has spread its wings, getting involved in development projects in the Balkans after the break up of Yugoslavia and the conflicts there and then to the Caucasus, working in Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The Turkish equivalent of USAID, it now has a budget of around $700 million a year and is involved in helping with development projects in 105 countries, with offices in 30. It is working in places such as Afghanistan, Somalia and the Palestinian territories. Despite the crisis in Syria and the consequent plummeting relations between Ankara and Damascus, Tika continues to work there as well as with displaced Syrians within Turkey.
It set up an office in Libya on October 1. Initially, the work focussed on humanitarian needs, such as the supplies provided to the Libyan NGO on Wednesday or other urgently needed equipment.
Tika has supplied, for example, 30 vehicles to security forces to protect the country’s borders. It has provided 6,000 uniforms to the police as well as equipment and sent police to Turkey for training. During the very cold weather in February, it provided 150 heaters as well as blackboards to schools in Yefren. It is creating a children’s park in Zawi. It is helping set up a radio station in Tajoura and has sent seven of the staff also to be trained in Turkey. Next week there will be another 30-tonne load of food and medicines delivered, this time to Kufra, recovering from the recent inter-communal clashes. The items, such as cooking oil, rice, flour and babies’ diapers, will be handed out to needy families.
One of Tika’s most high-profile plans in Libya to date is the creation of a physiotherapy clinic in Misrata. A 8,500-square-metre site, in the town’s Zarouq district, has been donated by Misrata Local Council and on Monday an engineer and a doctor will go there to draw up initial plans.
“We still working out the number of beds, the capacity and who will build it,” said Mahmut Urhan, who heads Tika’s Tripoli-based Libya and Tunisia bureau.
At the moment, there is no budget for Libya. “We don’t go into a country thinking about a budget,” said Urhan, “We hear the calls for help and then estimate a budget on the basis of those requests.”
Tika says it is now looking beyond urgent humanitarian needs. “We will concentrate on training of government staff,” Urhan said. “It could be any ministry — education, health, tourism, local government.”
Almost every month a Turkish minister or leading official seems to be in Libya building the new special relationship between the two countries. The most recent was the undersecretary at the Turkish foreign ministry Feridun Hadi Sinirlioglu who a week ago signed an agreement with his Libyan opposite number, Mohamed Abdul Aziz, to train Libyans as diplomats in Turkey.
The support being provided by Tika clearly underscores the fast emerging special relationship. [/restrict]