The Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Çolak gave a speech at the 6th. Boğaziçi Summit organized in İstanbul by the International Cooperation Platform under the title of ‘Eradicating poverty, Increasing Prosperity at the Grassroots Level and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)’. The full text of Colak’s speech is as follows:

“I thank the platform for this chance to participate in the deliberations of this platform:

And wish to contribute some thoughts, not just as the Turkish Cypriot Minister for Foreign Affairs of a short period of 5 months, but also with observations from a career before this appointment: as a lawyer in the private sector, an NGO activist in human rights, a participant in the women’s movement in my community and more recently a founder of a refugees rights association.

Distinguished delegates, we are meeting today for a very important cause.

Following the progress made in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we are all now committed and prepared to take on the challenge of achieving the new sustainable development goals.

Since the MDGs were adopted in the year 2000 the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has significantly fallen. And now, as we adopt these new goals, there is further hope to reduce preventable deaths to zero, to eliminate illiteracy and malnutrition and to eradicate extreme poverty in a generation.

The task ahead is not one to be taken lightly. Governments together with the private sector need to roll up their sleeves and take on this challenge in entirety. Everyone has a duty that needs to be carried out for this cause.

But at this moment in time, from the perspective of the Turkish Cypriots, it is not easy to be fully engaged in achieving the sustainable development goals given that the Turkish Cypriots are not part of the international community and thus experiencing various economic and social difficulties.

In my country, trying to achieve development, whether in the field of economy or human rights or environment, is a huge challenge if you are denied any status within the international community and therefore deprived of the kind of assistance, monitoring or incentives that is shared in global cooperation for such aims.

Right now, in Cyprus, we are in the midst of an extremely intense negotiation process to try to resolve the long standing dispute which divides the island.

We are “cautiously optimistic”.

The Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders and their respective teams are negotiating under the auspices of the UN Secretary General based on agreed parameters to create a bi-communal bi-zonal federal Cyprus.

They are meeting frequently for result oriented talks supported by confidence building measures to build trust between the parties and create a climate of cooperation.

A climate that foresees the potentials of a unified future – rather than the burden of a painful past which created the division.

If the talks succeed in taking us to a comprehensive solution accepted by simultaneous referenda on each side, the entire island will be a full-fledged member of the international community and also of the European Union.

Under the current circumstances, in the face of an unresolved  “frozen conflict” situation, necessitates us, the Turkish Cypriots,  to do these things unilaterally, to the best of our ability with limited resources, limited know how and, with limited motivation.

But despite these disadvantages, we are fortunate in North Cyprus in that we do not have issues of severe poverty or hunger. We have an established state, education and health system, however imperfect – but then again, which society can claim to be “perfect”.

We have succeeded in establishing a rule of law based on constitutional principles and are trying to prepare for EU membership and the reforms required to create EU mechanisms and standards.

Over the past 15 years or so, with some assistance received from the EU and also agents of the UN such as the UNDP, the Turkish Cypriots have gained experience in obtaining funding and undertaking projects as NGOs, local authorities and professional organizations.

These activities have contained many elements of the SDGs – promoting gender equality, environmental improvements, and protection of cultural heritage, social inclusion and reduction of inequalities, economic development through support for small and medium enterprises. To name just a few.

Although on a very small scale, with a de facto population of no more than about 300,000 people, and despite the disadvantages of an unresolved problem,

it is possible to see examples in North Cyprus of an awakening of NGO’s, the business community, trade unions into making concerted effort to improve the standard of living for our population, although we still do have many goals left to achieve.

The level of literacy and education is relatively high and, with the size of our society, it is not too difficult to raise awareness and mobilize the sectors that are stakeholders in areas of SDGs. But during these 5 months, I have observed the striking importance of something else – That for each country, SDGs are not just something to consider within their own fences and borders. For example, the escalating war in Syria has created a vast human tragedy in the form of millions of displaced men women and children, people trying to escape destitution and death, only to face destitution and death in foreign lands – or seas.

Is development not about primarily sustaining peace and stability? Avoiding violence and bloodshed?

Only if we can avoid, or intervene effectively and humanely to end violent conflicts is development meaningful or sustainable.

Because what you are successful in achieving in your own land can be so easily overturned by the lack of peace and stability in another land, near or far.

I am aware that one of the issues of discussion today is increasing prosperity at grass roots level. But under the present circumstances of conflict in our region, I would humbly suggest we have to concentrate more on regional and global stability and peace, because without these, any goal for sustainable development which is achieved can be very easily destroyed.”

Today, Çolak will go to Brussels from İstanbul to attend the reception to be held within the framework of the 10th. Anniversary of the Brussels Office of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce.