Mapping relations between state and humanitarian NGOs: the case of Turkey

Onur Bahçecik Ş., Turhan Y.

Third World Quarterly, vol.43, no.5, pp.979-996, 2022 (SSCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 43 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/01436597.2022.2040978
  • Journal Name: Third World Quarterly
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Periodicals Index Online, American History and Life, Business Source Elite, Business Source Premier, CAB Abstracts, Communication Abstracts, Educational research abstracts (ERA), Geobase, Historical Abstracts, Index Islamicus, PAIS International, Political Science Complete, Public Administration Abstracts, Public Affairs Index, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.979-996
  • Keywords: co-optation, competition, conflict, cooperation, humanitarian NGOs, State–NGO relations
  • Ankara Haci Bayram Veli University Affiliated: Yes


© 2022 Global South Ltd.The relationship between states and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is the subject of differing interpretations. Many observers of transnational civil society have pointed out a closing of civic space, including humanitarian space. Accordingly, many have focused on conflict and cooperation as main modes of interaction between states and NGOs. In this article we argue that a more in-depth look at state–NGO relations in Turkey shows that this binary framework is not sufficient. Relying on a framework that delineates conflict, cooperation, competition and co-optation as the four main patterns of interaction between states and NGOs, we look at the case of humanitarian NGOs based in Turkey. While aspects of state–NGO relations in Turkey indicate a co-opted humanitarian space, based on interviews with humanitarian NGOs in Turkey and secondary sources, we show that relations between the state and civil society actors are much more complex and evade simple categorisation. This underscores that ideological proximity does not always bring about smooth cooperation, and co-optation does not prevent NGOs from acting contrary to the wishes of the government. Humanitarian NGOs are also able to exert autonomous influence on governments.