Many presuppositions and prejudices will have to be overcome if we are to understand each other’s problems, benefit from each other’s experiences and find solutions that are acceptable to all, says Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Living together peacefully and prosperously will require that we address the world’s difficulties, differences and inequalities with an open mind

It may be the case that most of the problems that our societies face today are man-made. But it is incontestably the case that the solutions will have to be man-made as well.

The scale and complexity of the problems that we all face are too much of a burden for any society to shoulder alone.

Responsibility should be borne by all states. Indifference cannot be an option for any state in the 21st century.

Soon after the term globalization was coined to describe the complex dynamics at work throughout the world, we began to realize that this does not come without risks, challenges and even inequalities. It takes an effort to stay on the upside of globalization, an effort that no nation can afford to ignore.

Paradoxically, despite the information revolution that has accompanied globalization, our ability to predict accurately developments of global importance and their local consequences has not increased. We have yet to chart our course through troubled waters and combine the hindsight of experience with foresight.

One should not be discouraged by the problems we face. In addition to advances in mankind’s ability to improve our physical environment and to generate prosperity, the intellectual and philosophical wisdom accumulated over centuries within different cultures has a common core.

The challenge is to develop collective mechanisms where achievements of one society are reflected on others, and to give sufficient help to those lagging behind.

We will have failed in our moral responsibility if, within a few decades, we still have not adequately addressed existing global inequalities.

As in our personal lives, societies with better means should feel the obligation to assist others and, more important, to help them become productive members of international society.

This is not mere idealism. It is a realistic objective. In fact, it is a precondition for sustainable international peace and stability.

The World Economic Forum has become a valuable institution in its own right in bringing political, business and civil society leaders to discuss and benefit from each other’s experiences.

Such initiatives support the UN efforts to find solutions to problems of global poverty, environmental degradation, lack of education, spread of diseases, uncontrolled immigration and many others.

However, the efforts of the international community are being distracted by other problems demanding immediate international attention, such as terrorism and armed conflict, which disrupt peace and stability.

These problems exacerbate misunderstandings, rivalries, a sense of injustice and deprivation, humiliation, waste of resources and – inevitably – human suffering.

Turkey is located in a part of the world where great potential is being wasted as a result of problems that are not at all insurmountable. Given the complexity of today’s transnational problems, what is needed is an open mind – self-critical when necessary – to address problems collectively and holistically.

A three-pronged approach is more likely to succeed. First, the fight against terrorism needs to be based on a total rejection by all of this detestable method. This needs to be demonstrated with unequivocal solidarity and cooperation at the international level. Only then can terrorists see that their method is futile.

The second area that needs to be addressed concerns the presuppositions and prejudices that emerge from a lack of knowledge and empathy between different parts of the world.

Private-sector business has grasped and acted on the importance of inter-cultural dynamics in creating conditions conducive to mutual

gain with greater speed than officialdom. States, too, can minimize misunderstandings and prejudices by cultivating and encouraging cross-cultural skills.

The need for better understanding is particularly relevant in relations between Muslim societies and the west. The Muslim world suffers not only from its own democratic and socio-economic shortcomings, but also from the reductionist approaches of some in the west, exemplified in the notion of “the west and the rest”.

Islam is a producer of, and a contributor to, humanistic values that are the common heritage of civilization. Islamic countries are neither conflict-prone nor unable to generate peaceful democratic regimes.

Underdevelopment and conflict are not the fate of Muslim societies. The Turkish experience in political, economic and social development is an active and working example in this respect.

Conflict, violence and terrorism are products of man himself. As we reject the rationale of those who use terrorist methods for political ends, so too should we reject their claim to act in the name of any religion.

The third area of action is for the Muslim world itself. Muslim countries need to address better the shortcomings that hamper progress.

The spiritual heritage of peace and tolerance in the true tradition of Islam are essentially conducive to the establishment of a modern vision. Muslim societies can draw from their rich spiritual heritage and bring about concrete solutions to concrete problems.

This task is about providing the highest possible standards in political, economic and social life. Islam’s humanistic understanding of the world has produced remarkable achievements in the past. The present challenge is to work for similar achievements.

In trying to find their own solutions to their problems, Muslim countries must benefit from the intellectual wealth of their people. This human potential prospers when freedom, tolerance and mutual respect come together in a democratic environment where human rights are protected and the rule of law and good governance reign.

In the same vein, transparency, accountability and gender equality contribute to societies’ common good and make regimes stronger in the long run. As societal groups start breathing the air of democracy they gradually become shareholders and eventually protectors of that system. Turkey has been following such a path with success.

Turkey’s achievements have benefited significantly from its historical relationship with the west. In the same process Turkey has contributed to the realization of western humanistic objectives. Besides being a founding member of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Turkey today is a member of Nato and the OECD. Turkey is also on the road to accession to the European Union. Turkey’s cultural and religious identity has not contradicted this vast interaction.

As its mutually rewarding relationship with the west has been successful, Turkey has set for itself an unchanging mission: peace at home and abroad and the achievement of the highest level of contemporary civilization for its people.

The realization of this objective has been assisted by its integration with the west and will be further facilitated with Turkey’s eventual membership of the European Union.

The reforms in Turkey, which enjoy overwhelming support from all sectors of society, are being carried out with success. They will bring us to the next phase of the membership process – accession negotiations.

The European Union will play a more effective international role by benefiting from the political and economic added value that Turkish membership will bring.

Turkey’s multi-faceted orientation has assumed greater relevance as the defunct geopolitical divides of the Cold War era are replaced with renewed dynamism at the regional and global level.

The expansion of Nato and the enlargement of the European Union eastwards have drastically changed the political landscape in Europe – and more broadly in the transatlantic area.

The continuing eastwardly outreach has been accompanied by a shift in geopolitical priorities that have put an added emphasis on the Mediterranean region and the Middle East in its wider sense.

The same dynamics have also brought central Asia and the Caucasus to the forefront. This area, although representing a newly emerging energy landscape, is still in need of consolidating political stability and achieving economic development.

As a result of these dynamics, the west and the east have been brought closer to each other – not by choice necessarily, but by strategic exigencies. Turkey is today located in the centre of this reality.

While Turkey was a flank country of the Atlantic Alliance for most of the Cold War era, we now find ourselves at the epicentre of the rediscovered “Eurasia”. This puts added responsibility on us. Turkey is ready to contribute to a smooth transition of the geopolitical landscape extending from the Atlantic to central Asia and beyond.

By fusing its own identity and its integral place in the west, Turkey has been able to form its vision of the world on the basis of universal values. This makes Turkey well placed to play an important role in promoting the compatibility and harmony of civilizations. Turkey will continue to contribute to the attainment of such a goal.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the prime minister of Turkey.