DPI Online Roundtable Meeting: ‘Current Political Situation in Turkey: The Role of Local Government Leaders in Responding to Covid 19 and its Political , Social and Economic Impact’ – with Fatma Sahin, AK Party , Mayor of Gaziantep

On 2 June, DPI hosted an online roundtable meeting entitled ‘Current Situation in Turkey: The Role of Local Government Leaders in responding to COVID-19 & their Post-Pandemic Strategy’ with Fatma Şahin, Mayor of Gaziantep. This was the first of a series of online meetings with municipality leaders from different political parties and regions of Turkey to discuss the current situation in light of COVID-19.

This first roundtable meeting hosted Fatma Şahin, the current Mayor of Gaziantep, from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), as the key speaker. During the presentation, the Mayor stated that Gaziantep has efficiently handled the pandemic due to the accessibility and inclusiveness of Turkey’s health system, as social security is provided to every Turkish citizen and is made accessible to refugees.

The roundtable brought together a diverse group of participants from Turkey, including academics, civil society leaders, journalists, lawyers, politicians, members of Wise Persons Committee (WPC), as well as DPI’s Council of Expert members, and our funders.

The issue of migrants and refugees was prominent during the discussion session. In the recent years, Gaziantep has experienced an influx of Syrian refugees due to its proximity with the Syrian border. The Mayor discussed how migrants in Gaziantep have been integrated through means of education, healthcare, and employment. Though the influx of refugees coupled with the emergence of COVID-19 has added to the challenges the local administration faces, Şahin noted the measures taken to support the refugees during the pandemic, including broadcasting messages in Arabic.

During the course of the roundtable meeting, the issue of decentralisation and devolution of power to local authorities was also discussed. Participants also discussed the role of women in local administrations. The Mayor noted high levels of women’s representation in Gaziantep, especially in areas traditionally thought to be as male-oriented, such as the economy, infrastructure and sciences. Şahin stated that the inclusion of women in decision-making processes has been something she has always advocated for since becoming Mayor.

The roundtable illustrated how the local administration in Gaziantep has managed the pandemic, and highlighted the areas in which local, central and global governance can adapt to these new challenges.

The roundtable forms part of a larger series of activities in the context of the project ‘Supporting inclusive dialogue at a challenging time in Turkey’, supported by the EU and the Norwegian government.