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When it comes to voluntary organizations, foundations are the first to come to one’s mind in Turkey. Our country has a rich foundation history of centuries. There is a strong foundation tradition which has survived since the Seljuk and Ottoman era. Foundations which are based on the charity approach in Islam have played an active role in the execution of social and infrastructure services. Except for justice, security and freedom, many social services from education to health, which are provided by the government today, had been carried out by foundations in the Ottoman Empire.
Development of associations is the result of the developments in the 19th and 20th centuries. First regulations related to association law were included in the “Associations Law” of 1909 which was inspired by the French Associations Law. The Turkish Civil Code of 1926 which was drawn up after the foundation of the Republic based on the “Swiss Civil Code” includes provisions regarding associations. “Associations Law” was passed in 1938, “Associations Law no 1630” was passed in 1972 and “Associations Law no 2908” was passed in 1983. Current “Associations Law” was passed in 2004.
Voluntary organizations in Turkey increase their numbers and strengthen their organizational capacity after being affected by domestic and international economic, political and social sciences. Number of associations and foundations in our country has increased since 1990’s with the impact of administrative, financial and legal regulations. Largest voluntary organizations in Turkey such as Community Volunteers Foundation and Education Volunteers Foundation have been founded in this period. Turkish Education Volunteers Foundation and Turkish Education Foundation carry out activities in the field of education, TEMA Foundation carries out activities in the field of environment, Foundation for Children with Leukaemia (LÖSEV) carries out activities in the field of health, Sabancı Foundation carries out activities in the field of culture and arts and Aid Foundation for Weak and Homeless People carries out activities in the field of aid.
Vital interventions by the volunteers in the aftermath of the 17 August 1999 Marmara Earthquake caused that the value of the volunteering and voluntary organizations are understood and made people think that voluntary organizations should be improved. “Associations Law” passed in 2004 and “Foundations Law” which took effect in 2008 are important legal regulations for increasing the number and strengthening the structural capacity of the voluntary organizations.
Ministry of Interior did not make any classification in the name of “volunteering” when classifying the associations according to their fields of operation. However, according to a study which was carried out with 2487 Voluntary Organizations in 26 provinces, only about one fifth (18.6%) of the voluntary organizations in Turkey have positioned themselves as aid and solidarity organizations, about one tenth (9.4%) stated that they were sports organizations, 7.8% defined themselves as educational, 7.6% as cultural and 7.2% as vocational/sectorial organizations.
As of March 2016, number of active associations in Turkey is 109.292. According to 31.12.2015 data of the Republic of Turkey Prime Minister’s Office Directorate General of Foundations, number of foundations founded in accordance with the new Civil Code is 5.012. Number of associations and foundations per capita in our country is still rather low compared to developed countries. Rather low number of voluntary organizations causes that volunteering activities are limited. When we look at the number of members, the number of female members of non-governmental organizations is 1.606.739 while number of male members is 7.246.168. When these numbers are evaluated in terms of volunteers other than members, the rate of volunteers in Turkey is 6.7%.
Definitions of legal regulations which determine the definition of volunteering and framework of the responsibilities of the non-governmental organizations and public organizations in the management of volunteering are given below:
With a decision which was made by United Nations General Assembly in 2012 due to the 10th Anniversary of the International Volunteer Day and which was approved by Turkey (A/RES/66/67), volunteering is considered as an important part of strategies for reducing poverty, sustainable development, health, strengthening youth, climate change, disaster prevention and management, social integration, humanitarian aid and especially fighting against social exclusion and discrimination.
According to the Article 2: Definitions of the Environment Law no 2872; “Environment volunteer is the person who is chosen by the Ministry among the people who have appropriate qualifications and who is responsible and authorized to report any violations of this Law and regulations implemented by this Law to the Ministry”.
Another definition of volunteering in Turkey is included in the National Youth and Sports Policy Document (2013). In this Document, volunteering is defined as; “the individual’s using his/her physical power, time, knowledge, ability and experience together or separately on his/her own accord for the purpose of solidarity and cooperation, without pursuing any personal benefits and without any materialistic expectation only with the desire to be useful for the society”.
According to the Article 4: Definitions of the Regulations for Voluntary Participation in the Services of Special Provincial Administration and Municipalities; “Volunteer is any real and legal entity that participates in the local administration services by means of using his/her knowledge, skills and abilities, collaboration opportunities and time without expecting any material income and the public organizations which will assign their volunteers in these services”.