May 23, 2007
The international conference on the “Civil Society and Foreign Policy”, co-organized by Marmara University International Relations Research Center (MURCIR) and TÜSİAD-BU Foreign Policy Forum took place at Ceylan Intercontinental Hotel, İstanbul on 23 May 2007.
The main themes of discussion at the conference were foreign policy making, the role of civil society organizations in this process and the rising effect of think tanks as expertise institutions of foreign policy.
The conference consisted of two sessions. The opening speech of the first session was delivered by Assoc. Professor Gülden Ayman, chair of the TUSİAD-BU Foreign Policy Forum. The first speaker of the first session chaired by Assoc. Prof. Ayman was Assist. Prof. Serhat Güvenç from Bilgi University. In his Speech Mr. Güvenç mentioned the role of think-tanks in foreign policy formation process in Turkey. Mr. Güvenç argued that think-tanks are accepted as expertise organizations and therefore different actors of foreign policy are choosing to express their views on foreign policy issues through think-tanks. The second speaker Abdullah Akyüz, Representative of TUSİAD Office in Washington, argued that think-tanks can not be considered as civil society organizations. Akyüz complained about limited effect of civil society in the formation of foreign policy and told that this problem is closely related with the limited role of the parliament regarding foreign policy in Turkey. The last speaker of the session, Assist. Prof. Semra Cerit Mazlum from Marmara University, highlighted the role of environmental civil society organizations in shaping international environmental policy. Mrs. Cerit Mazlum analyzed the role of environmental organizations in creating a shift in the balances of international environmental policy.
The second session was chaired by Assist. Prof. Erhan Doğan from Marmara University. The first speaker of the second session Assoc. Prof Ayhan Kaya from Bilgi University delivered a speech on Circassian diaspora and identity formation. Mr. Kaya emphasized that Turkey’s attitude towards different Caucasian ethnic groups is very much shaped by conjonctural developments in Russian-Turkish relations. The second speaker Kenan Soyak, head of Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council shared his experience about their role as a civil society organization in building ties between two countries: Turkey and Armenia who have no official diplomatic relations. The final speaker was Assist. Prof. Doğan and he explained various ways and levels developed by civil society organizations in affecting foreign policy formation. The session was ended with questions adressed to the speakers by the audience.