I work for UNDP and I am not a development expert


A young woman with a Turkish family

I have to be honest with you.

Four years ago, just before my first day at UNDP in Turkey, I thought I knew everything about development. I was dead wrong.

Doing development is less about having a comfortable office and more about touching people’s hearts. It’s about being open to learning from others.

But that’s just what UNDP has taught me: There is no such thing as a development expert. There are only people who carry a passion for learning from and helping others.

You get this feeling very clearly at UNDP in Turkey. It’s an office that has been around for more than 50 years.

You could say UNDP and Turkey have evolved together.

In the 1960s, Turkey had a population of 30 million with a thirst to develop. Per capita income was around 385 US dollars* and industrial reforms were beginning to take place rapidly.

In 1968, UNDP helped train technicians and employees in machine factories in Kırklareli, a province in the northwest of Turkey, and to support industrial facilities in Ankara and Gaziantep. Then came the geothermal energy facility in Denizli, a province in the southwest of Turkey, in 1969.

Turkish woman working in a rural village area


The late 1970s were hard times for Turkey. There were three consecutive devaluations in 1977.There was a shortage of propane cylinders for people to cook and heat their homes. The Executive Council of UNDP approved 33 million dollars’ worth of development aid for Turkey from 1978 to 1982.

At the end of the 1970s, Turkey, like other countries around the world, was suffering from an energy crisis and participated in regional initiatives to tackle it. A solar energy research and development center was established as early as 1979 as a result of an agreement between Turkey and UNDP.

UNDP’s presence in Turkey’s regional development gained strength in the mid-90s, especially through addressing socio-economic development gaps in the Southeast Anatolia region, making UNDP the only international organization to operate non-stop in that region since.

The focus of UNDP’s work evolved as the country developed. There is a clear shift in focus from poverty eradication towards inclusiveness and sustainability.

Turkish children picking strawberries out in the green fields


Turkey has changed a lot over the last 50 years as well. Its population has now grown to almost 80 million and it has a per capita income of more than 9,000 USD**. In 50 years its national income hasexceeded 700 billion dollars, up from 14 billion dollars in 1966.

As a result of its cooperation with UNDP, Turkey is now an exporter of good development practices to other countries, it supports less developed countries and actively contributes to global agendas. Turkey’s G20 presidency in 2015 is a clear example of this.

UNDP, in its 50th anniversary, continues to bring global knowledge and expertise into Turkey’s sustainable human development approach, emphasizing economic, social and environmental dimensions.

I may be no expert – but I am proud to be a part of this organization.


* World Bank, World Development Indicators Database.

** GDP per capita and GDP levels for 2015 are obtained from the Revised Medium Term Programme (2016-2018) of the Government of Turkey which was announced by the Ministry of Development on January 11, 2016.

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