LONDON (AA) - The world’s humanitarian aid system lies broken and is in need of urgent repair, Turkey's president said Monday as a major international summit began in Istanbul.
Writing a column in Britain’s The Guardian, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the existing system relies heavily on the United Nations and the mercy of individual nation-states, and that a global consensus is needed to help millions of people stricken every year by war and natural disasters.
By spending a bigger share of its gross domestic product (GDP) on humanitarian aid than any other, Turkey is the world’s most generous country, Erdogan said, demonstrated by examples like Somalia, where the Turkish investment and aid helped create political stability and combat terrorism.
"Turkey’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria is another success story," he continued.
"Having adopted an open-door policy towards Syrian refugees in 2011, we now host nearly 3 million Syrian nationals from diverse ethnic, religious and sectarian backgrounds. In the past five years Turkey has allocated $10 billion to provide Syrian refugees with free healthcare, education and housing.
"At a time when the international community failed the Syrian people -- 600,000 of whom have lost their lives in the civil war, with 13 million forced from their homes -- Turkey, along with the rest of Syria’s neighbors, was left to deal with the conflict’s consequences."
"As the Syrian civil war enters its sixth year, we are calling on the world to create a fair mechanism for sharing the burden."
Erdogan added that the international community "must not buy into" Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad’s argument that removing him from power would further escalate the conflict in the country.
Both Daesh and the Assad regime must be defeated in order to allow Syrian democracy to flourish, he said, calling on the European Union to work more effectively with Turkey in developing a lasting solution.
The two-day World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which begins on Monday, will see global leaders make "concrete commitments" to reforming the global aid system, the Turkish president said.
But he added: "Whether the summit can make an actual difference depends on the sincerity of participants and how much room there is in our hearts for 125 million fellow human beings.
"Together we must restore hope in the hearts of the poor, the hungry and the oppressed. Let us join together to take a giant leap forward toward a more peaceful, safe and fair world."