Conference Reports

His Excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan participated as the guest of honour in the TRT World Forum 2017 to give the keynote speech at the Forum under the moderation of Fatih Er, Director of News and Programmes at TRT World. President Erdoğan’s remarks spanned from the failure of the current global order in sustaining the international peace to the humanitarian crisis around the world.

The TRT World Forum opened with a welcoming speech delivered by the Director General of TRT İbrahim Eren and followed by Opening Speeches by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. Throughout the speeches, speakers mostly emphasised the urgent need for objective and focused media, particularly in the current discourse.

The second day of the TRT World Forum 2017 opened with a joint keynote speech by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the former Prime Minister of Spain, and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey. The main theme of their speech was the lack of international cooperation in addressing pressing global issues.

This session discussed issues surrounding the established current world order and explored the players in the international arena that have the potential to change and shift the power equilibria.Future prospects were discussed including the potential for a unipolar world that could disseminate equality in fair trade and in which openness and exchange could be promoted extensively.

This session delved into topics most pertaining to the Middle East today and which have affected the course of events regionally and globally over the past six years. The panelist explored both theoretical and practical aspects of the threats and trends the MENA region is passing through at the present time.

The session discussed ‘responsible journalism’ and how the term ‘objectivity’ needs to be rephrased in relation to reporting on war zones.It analysed the importance of editorial guidelines and what it means to be objective. The panellists questioned whether reporters or journalists could ever, truly, refrain themselves from the story they are pitching.

This session dealt with transforming the conventional humanitarian aid system towards a more refined assistance approach. It kicked off with two fundamental questions posted to the panellists: 1) Why is humanitarian aid necessary? 2) Where does it go and who decides where it goes?

This session discussed the current upsurge of xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe and North America. This session put forward concrete measures - including political activism and grass-roots activism, that would reduce anti-Muslim hysteria, anti-immigrant bullying and numerous other manifestations of Islamophobic or xenophobic narratives.

This session brought ‘for-profit’ companies and ‘non-profit’ social organisations like TRT World Citizen, Turkish Airlines and Windhorse International together to discuss humanitarian issues and corporate responsibility in enhancing sustainable development. This session discussed the role that big businesses and entrepreneurs play in effecting social development and change.

As digital media on mobile devices is the primary platform of communication with the outside world, the rise of digital influencers continues to grow. This session looks at the responsibilities of these digital influencers towards their audiences and the ways they could promote social good and inspire change.

The closed session, ‘Turkey’s Foreign Policy: New Directions and Challenges’ was held on October 18, 2017 with the participation of highly esteemed politicians, academics and policy experts from all over the globe. The session primarily dealt with the general landscape and contours of Turkey’s foreign policy, its main pillars and its changing dynamics. After presentations by Turkish foreign policy decision-makers on the forces of continuity and change in Turkey’s relations with the US, the EU and the Middle East; the floor to discussion was opened and distinguished participants shared their analyses.

In this session, a distinguished panel of speakers and participants convened to explore the origins, impact and lasting legacy of the brutal coup attempt in Turkey, in which many innocent civilians lost their lives and thousands were injured. During the night of July 15, 2016, a group of soldiers attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government in Turkey. Thousands of ordinary men and women took to the streets to oppose the coup. The confessions of some of the putschist soldiers and key evidence during the night of the coup indicated that Fethullah Gulen - a Turkish cleric living in the US - and his followers were directly involved in the coup attempt. Within this framework, the session explored the roots of the coup in Turkey based on civil-military relations, development of the FETO and the impact of the coup attempt on national and international politics of Turkey.

On Monday, 5 June 2017, three GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE Bahrain) and Egypt cut their diplomatic relationships with Doha. This unprecedented crisis in the history of inter-Gulf relations has created a state of mistrust, not only among the governments of the Gulf States, but also among the citizens of those countries. This session discussed the reasons of the Gulf crisis, its impact on the relationship between the member states of the GCC as well as the wider security in the region. The speakers tried to draw the scenarios that could be expected to resolve this crisis.

The Syrian issue has come to be one of the hottest topics of the global agenda regarding the Middle East. This is further complicated by the involvement and intervention of both regional and major global powers. In the closed session of TRT World Forum titled “Shockwaves of the War in Syria”, Turkish, Syrian, Iranian, and international perspectives on the Syrian war were discussed with the attendance of experts from various backgrounds. The positions of Turkey, Iran and the Syrian opposition were presented by senior figures from these respective countries.

This session mainly discussed Turkey's current position as a leading humanitarian actor in the international arena. Turkey, as a rising power, has been playing a crucial role in the humanitarian field in the last 15 years, presenting new strategies for humanitarian activism around the world. In 2017, the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report ranked Turkey as the world's second largest humanitarian donor after the U.S. and the world's most generous nation compared to its gross national income. As such, this session discussed how Turkey has reached this position and the potential challenges it faces.

This session focused on far-right movements, parties and their effects on politics and social life. It was emphasized that far-right political parties are increasingly supported more in the West, especially in European countries due to fluctuations in the economy and the increase in unemployment. Another important factor in the rise of the far-right movements is the migration to European countries from MENA countries as people who do not have the opportunity to survive in their own countries due to war are migrating to European countries in order to survive. Speakers and participants stated that the characteristic of far-right ideas is anti-Islamism and xenophobia and these features attract the interest and support of most of people living in in the West. Politicians are using immigrants, Muslims and xenophobia as materials in politics in order to easily gain more support. In this session, it has been also emphasized that the far- right is increasingly normalized in Europe and it is not only directed against Muslims, but also against women. In general, this session attempted to understand the roots and current situations of the far-right movements and potential solutions were discussed.

This session primarily dealt with the question of how to develop a comprehensive strategy to counter global terrorism. The rise of global terrorism has created an atmosphere of fear across the globe affecting many countries in different continents. With advances in communication and transportation technology due to the processes of globalisation, local groups now have the chance of spreading their ideologies and activities to a much wider population. This session addressed the imminent need in reaching common ground for solving the issue since there is still a lack of consensus regarding how to eliminate the threat of terrorism, if such a thing is possible.