Despite the difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, FAO Turkey is working closely with its counterparts in the Government of Turkey to implement a Syrian refugee response project and a range of activities to address current challenges. This** European Union**-funded project aims to strengthen the resilience and socio-economic integration of **Syrians **under Temporary Protection (SuTPs) as well as vulnerable host communities in Turkey by supporting agriculture-based livelihoods and improving access to employment in the agri-food sector. On 10 June 2020, FAO Turkey held a virtual Project Steering Committee Meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry; the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services (MoFLSS); the Delegation of the European Union to Turkey; and the Vice Presidency of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey.
The Zoom meeting was chaired by Ms Aylin Çağlayan Özcan (Director-General, General Directorate of European Union and Foreign Relations of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) and attended by many high-level officials. Halil Afşarata, the Chief Advisor to the Vice President of Turkey, pointed out that 70 million people have been displaced due to recent developments in the world, and 25 million of whom have become refugees. Afşarata also underlined that Turkey hosts the greatest number of migrants in the world, with a total 5 million refugees living in the country. He also stated that the vast majority of these guests are vulnerable. Noting that employment projects in the agriculture sector have been highly valued, Afşarata said that “the growth rates of developing countries will fall below that of developed countries for the first time since World War II. For this reason, we should be more active in generating employment.”
FAO Representative in Turkey, Viorel Gutu, spoke at the meeting and reminded participants that Turkey, which has welcomed more than 4 million migrants since the crisis began, has garnered great appreciation on a global scale. He stressed that the project aims to strengthen the agriculture sector and contribute economically to the Syrians that Turkey is hosting. Gutu added that “the project is also one of the best examples of global solidarity,” assisting Turkey in their extensive support to Syrian refugees. Noting that the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many revisions in the project, Gutu was nonetheless hopeful that work will continue with the commitment of all stakeholders. Speaking next was Libor Chlad, Head of Section for the Facility for Refugees in Turkey of EU Delegation to Turkey. He stated that the pandemic caused a global crisis as well. Underlining the importance of global cooperation to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and the crisis, Chlad said, “We are continuing to work in close cooperation with all our stakeholders to overcome our challenges. With the last crisis we had, many dynamics of the project had to change. However, we will work together to achieve our goals. Economic projects are very important for the integration of Syrians. In this respect, agricultural employment is particularly important. This project with FAO is therefore very critical and valuable.”
Following, Sadettin Akyıl, Director-General of the International Labour Force of MoFLSS, said that the projects carried out under the leadership of FAO are critical for the employment of Syrians. Akyıl said that due to the pandemic, many projects had to undergo critical changes in their implementation and strategies. In this context, adding the use of more advanced technologies and innovations in agriculture and animal husbandry are on the agenda. “At this point it is useful to draw attention to the common goal of our projects, which is to be sustainable. Perhaps the only positive aspect of the crisis was to increase people's interest in agriculture,” he said. The committee members discussed updated work plans, confirmed an activity schedule, and agreed to extend project implementation for an additional nine months. This meeting also confirmed the commitment of the Government of Turkey, its partners and all service units to improve the living conditions of SuTPs. The members of the Steering Committee recognized the efforts made by FAO to support SuTPs and host communities, with a view to improving their livelihoods. All look forward to future collaboration in this endeavour.