Civil Society Report Summary:
CHP is the Party of Organized Civil Society
Civil society is a wide sphere of social organization and relations that stands between private life and state.
Free individual is at the core of civil society. Civil society consists of social unions formed by free individuals with their free will. Maintaining and strengthening an organized society is the foremost political aim of CHP. CHP considers itself as the party of organized civil society, rather than the party of a group, ethnic belonging, or established forces in power.
One’s freedom depends on the elimination of oppressive state applications, as well as peer pressure and pressure of religious communities that enforce people to obedience and dependence; and economic independence and social security.
CHP believes that one’s freedom could only be provided by a strong social state that does not leave its citizens to the mercy of uncontrolled market. Social state means investing in coexistence. The basis of social democrats’ notion of coexistence involves empathy. Because empathy arouses the community spirit. It ensures the citizens’ being sensitive to each other’s problems and supporting each other.
CHP’s Notion of Civil Society Stands Against State, Religious Communities, and Peer Pressure
CHP’s notion of civil society;
- is not state-governed. It does not consider non-governmental organizations as dependent partners driven by the state.
- is against oppressive religious communities. It rejects one’s yielding to others. It especially stands against peer pressure and pressure of religious communities that restrain the freedom of youngsters and women.
- is against neo-liberal doctrines. It rejects the notion that restrains people’s access to political, social, and cultural resources in accordance with their economic revenues.
CHP advocates the notion of civil society that preserves its autonomy against non-governmental organizations that have become partisans. Our party rejects the notion of favoring and dismissive state-civil society relation.
Civil society is the most effective tool for democratic rejection of authoritarian tendencies of political power. CHP gets its strength from organized civil society for the protection and improvement of democracy.
CHP regards civil society as the nursery garden of democracy. CHP shall protect this garden with ali its power against the oppressive, authoritarian, and punitive policies of Justice and Development Party (AKP). CHP needs the support of these institutions for the protection of democratic pluralism.
CHP’s Perspective of Belief-Oriented Organizations
It would not be right to consider religion or belief oriented nets of relation and organizations as a single and homogenous phenomenon in terms of their operation and purposes. Some of the religion and belief oriented organizations carry out their activities as completely modern and democratic non-governmental organizations. These carry out important activities that mainly develop social solidarity, prevent individuals’ becoming isolated and ensure them to reach spiritual satisfaction.
On the other hand, it should not be disregarded that some religion and belief oriented non-governmental organizations have such characteristics that do not comply with the aim of developing democracy and a healthy civil society in the long run. Especially in the last two decades some of these organizations have moved away from the essential aims of civil society. An example to these could be some organizations’ becoming the extensions of governments, getting involved in corruptions that involve the governments, or focusing completely on profit-oriented activities.
These organizations also form rigid hierarchical inner structures and thus pave the way for the spread of authoritarian values. Some other organizations impose strong prejudices against fractions of society which they do not regard close to themselves. Bringing patriarchic values forward and keeping women in the background is also another problem that we face in some of these organizations.
CHP rejects the notion that provides special benefits to its members by creating a culture of allegiance and relations of dependence.
Civil Society Under the Shadovv of AKP
The already limited autonomy of civil society in Turkey suffers from a rapid erosion due to AKP government’s oppressive policies. The AKP government, which is trying to suppress its opponents in bureaucracy, local governments, media, and business world, also enforces the civil society to pledge allegiance to itself. AKP’s monopolistic mentality is trying to discredit non-governmental organizations that have different social designs in the eyes of public opinion through heavy labeling policies. Non-governmental organizations are left face to face with the dilemma of either going under control of AKP or being ‘disposed.’
Some non-governmental organizations that operate under control of the government have become profit, even income oriented by making use of state facilities. These organizations rapidly grow in terms of financial resources, number of members, and publicity due to unfair competition and partial protectionism. Let alone the lack of regular inspection of these organizations, the claims of corruption against them are also covered. Similarly, some of the non-governmental organizations that are close to the government are driven towards the advenrurous sphere of foreign policy and placed in front of peaceful public diplomacy.
Many pro-government non-governmental organizations have completely lost their autonomy and become a governmental organization. Political Islamic movement, hovvever, has presented and promoted itself as a civil society movement in the last two decades. But AKP government’s efforts for presenting itself as the representative of civil society have lost ali their credibility.
The Problems of Civil Society in Turkey
* Suppressive Tradition That Continues With AKP: The state-civil society relations in Turkey operate under the notion of “strong state, weak civil society.” The state has mostly considered non-governmental organizations as a potential harm for the interests of the state and nation, and AKP government continued the oppressive tradition while making it more rigid.
* Lack of Financial Resources: One of the most important problems faced by non-governmental organizations in Turkey is lack of fmancial resources.
* Gender Inequality and Imbalance Between Regions: The number of female members of non-governmental organizations in Turkey is only one fifth of male members. Two thirds of non-governmental organizations operate in Ankara, İstanbul, and İzmir. Among these, 40 percent is located in İstanbul, 25 percent in Ankara, and 10 percent in İzmir.
* Visibility Problem: The coverage of civil society activities by the national media is quite limited. The lack of visibility creates problems in the spread of civil society culture, the organizations’ fulfilling their function of representation, and forming their social bases.
CHP Gives its Word for a Stronger Civil Society
1- Notion of State Governed Civil Society Shall Be Eliminated: The aim of CHP is to
enable transition from a restraining, punitive, and dismissive state governed notion to a social oriented notion that supports, enhances, and encompasses non-governmental organizations.
2- Law for Inclusion of Civil Society in Governance Shall Be Enacted: The CHP
government will enact a law and recognize the participation of civil society representatives in the decision-making process at ali levels, from town municipality to Turkish Grand National Assembly as a right. Thus, not only the partisan organizations but also opposing organizations shall have the opportunity to be heard.
3- Burca ücra tic Obstacles Shall Be Eliminated: The Associations Law shall be revievved
with an equalitarian and libertarian perspective, ali bureaucratic obstacles that restrain and
obstruct the freedom of organization shall be eliminated.
4- Fund Raising Shall Be Facilitated: Non-governmental organizations shall be enabled to reach voluntary contributions within an equal and transparent process with the help of the future amendments to be made in Fund Raising Law.
5- Tax Advantages Shall Be Increased: There shall be amendments and improvements in the tax legislation in favour of non-governmental organizations. The process of granting Public Interest and Tax Exemption status shall be carried out in a more equal and transparent manner.
6- No More Pro-Fine Approach: The Associations Department shall embrace a character which leads the associations to operate in compliance with the laws, rather than fining them. Warning shall be preferred instead of fining.
7- Civil Society Lessons in Schools: Civil society education shall be included in the curriculum in order to enhance the culture of organization, and each student shall be encouraged to participate actively in social responsibility projects. The necessary support and facilitations shall be provided for increasing the participation of youngsters in organizational social responsibility projects.
8- Office and Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organizations: Local administrations shall be supported to form “Civil Society Centers.” In these centers non-governmental organizations with limited resources or newly-founded organizations shall be supported in terms of communal areas, office infrastructure facilities, and secretariat.
9- More Abundant and Transparent Resources: Subventions from the public budget shall be increased in order to provide a strong and autonomous financial structure to non-governmental organizations that operate in the public interest. Provision of resources shall be carried out in a transparent, equal and suitability-based manner, rather than a parti san approach. The organizations which put the participation of women fonvard or are located in regions vvhere civil society is relatively less developed shall have priority in receiving public funds.
10- State Aid for Domestic and International Subvention Applications: The support
process shall be materialized for non-governmental organizations in terms of forming project
partnership, project design, application, and execution so that they can have the utmost benefit
from TÜBİTAK, EU Framevvork Programs, and other domestic and international subventions, and become the driving force of research-and-development process and innovation culture.
11- Positive Discrimination in Favour of Women: Incentive schemes shall be prepared in order to increase the participation of women in non-governmental organizations and ensure that women take active roles in the administration of these organizations. Women’s organizations shall be strengthened by giving them priority in the distribution of national and local subventions.
12- The Internet Which Nourishes Pluralism Shall Be Kept Out of Censorship: CHP is
pleased with the fact that new technologic facilities are used to enhance participative and pluralist democracy. In this regard, our party shall put in ali the necessary efforts to keep the Internet away from censorship.
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