The YADA Foundation held a meeting in Diyarbakır with the theme of “Life Together: Possible Together” with the representatives of various civil society organisations from Diyarbakır, Mardin, Şanlıurfa, Gaziantep, Istanbul and Ankara.
The YADA Foundation Project Coordinator of “Possible”, Rümeysa Çamdereli, who launched the programme, stated in her opening speech that they started this project with the belief that ‘it is possible to live together’. Çamdereli reminded that Turkey is a multi-lingual, multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multi-sectarian country and that there is a multi-layered structure, including the private sector and public institutions. Emphasising that they adopt a culture of consensus and dialogue, Çamdereli stated that they place important on bringing together NGOs who feel outside the circle or who cannot create contact the other.
The first session of the workshop started with representatives of civil society organisations introducing themselves and their organisations. Organisations conveyed the impact they created and their experiences in their areas of activity.
Questions such as ‘What do civil society organisations do?’, ‘What are their areas of activity?’, ‘Who are they collaborating with?’ and ‘What if they did not exist, what would happen?’ were asked to ensure the organisations had the opportunity to obtain detailed information about each other.
The second session was held in the form of an open discussion platform and the topics identified by the groups were discussed. The discussion topics were Civil Society-Public Sector Relations, Youth and Rights-based Activities, Social Peace-Culture, Cooperation among NGOs, Raising Social Life Quality Standards and other issues.
At the table where the Civil Society-Public Sector Relations were discussed, Mukadder Ezel Yılmaz from the Karakutu Association reminded that civil society organisations are among the actors that will influence political will by ensuring the socialisation of the principles of living together and bringing them to realisation. Yılmaz emphasised that it is important for civil initiatives and organisations to establish cooperation with public institutions that can serve their own missions. Yılmaz mentioned that deficiencies in the public sector-NGO relations as follows: “I observe and also experience that institutions working on violation of rights and carrying out awareness raising activities are inadequate in establishing relations with state institutions. In today’s meeting, as four institutions coming from different backgrounds and having various organisational models, we realised that we had difficulty in establishing this relationship for similar reasons as a result of our discussions. One of the reasons that undermined the dialogue between us and public institutions is that they approach our areas of work with suspicion. Although we try to seep through the cracks that we can find via individuals from time to time, this does not make the relationship sustainable and the bond created is fragile. On the other hand, we confessed to each other that there are situations where NGOs prefer to stay away from the public sector in order to keep ourselves free from the control, direction and supervision of public institutions. We can say that this attitude makes us idle, and prevents us from seeking ways and methods to reach public institutions and making efforts for this. Past experiences or situations we observe in our environment have led us to the acceptance that ‘the public sector does not want to work with us”.
The discussion table on strengthening the public sector-NGO relations proposed solutions which included “considering how to get in contact with public institutions and learning about internal dynamics of the bureaucracy, strengthening the legal and social basis of activities to relieve perceptions or questions marks about themselves and to find out about the services that may be requested from public institutions”.
Yahya Öğer of the Green Yıldız Association offered his response to the question ‘Is it possible to live together?’ by stating that the biggest handicap of the modern world is that human beings who shares the same time and space limits the world for themselves, does not allow someone the right to live, and that the world is not only for humans but for all living creatures. He said that a self-centred approach is the biggest obstacle to living together, and that capitalism nourishes it and that the most basic way to prevent this is the rule of law and the protection of individual rights. Öğer added: “It is of course possible for individuals who are respectful to each other to live together in the scope of rights and rule of law, and to live without conflict. It should be known that it is virtue to demand for the other what you would demand for your own self, that diversities, ethnicities, genders are a means for cohesion and solidarity and not a mere characteristic. The rule of law will pave the road to freedom of expression, the establishment of fundamental rights and freedoms by the system, the agreement of the understanding of the social state, and the freedom for individuals regarding religious beliefs and liberties, allowing us to live without conflict.”
Demos Ankara representative Atiye Eren started a discussion about the concepts of peace and living together, and stated that peace does not just mean the end of conflict and having no war, but requires eliminating all the conditions that might lead to conflict in order to enjoy social peace state, called “positive peace” and a process of facing the past. Stating that all the social conditions that bring about violence and conflict need to be examined and measures need to be taken to prevent human rights violations from occurring again as a foundational characteristic of a peace process, Eren said: “For this reason, working through the process of the past with efforts to meet the victims’ demands for justice and to reveal truths, is important to construct permanent social peace. The facilitator’s approach to this perspective is the most important step in building peace and making it possible to live together.”
Neşe Toprak from the New Life Association stated that he sees the obstacles in front of life as prejudice and disagreement, and that civil society should play a facilitation role in overcoming these obstacles. She stated, “The obstacle of living together starts from using our differences to exclude others, not being able to empathise with others and not showing respect to our differences is also an obstacle. Since NGOs are primarily rights-based organisations, they should be flexible; they should develop and implement strategies to meet the common challenges by merging differences with soft transitions in the face of such obstacles and approaching the common challenges with respect and without prejudice.”
Participant Fırat Akman, representing the Tuşba Youth Development Association, stated that living together in Diyarbakir would be possible with the efforts of civil society organisations collaborating even around small agendas and theme areas. He stated that living together would be possible and polarising and discriminatory language can be eliminated by such small, ‘band aid’ remedies for these common ‘wounds’ and that the concept of civil should be discussed. He added, “There is a need to accept that awareness that the joint, cohesive power of civil society organisations comes from civil society, whether they are active in the same area of activity or not. With this awareness, it should be possible to support each other easily in necessary fields and act in cooperation. We can achieve this by clearing social norms, taboos, prejudices and populism, and uniting around common values”.