New research paper: Security, development, and the Greater Anatolia Project

Here we republish a paper by Arda Bilgen for Research Turkey on the relationship between security and development in the context of Turkey’s Greater Anatolia Project, one of the largest river basin development projects in the world and the largest single development project carried out by Turkey. It includes plans to build 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric power plants, all on lands with 90% Kurdish population.

 

THE GREATER ANATOLIA PROJECT (GAP)

A Static Nexus or a Dynamic Network? Rethinking the Security-Development Relationship within the Context of Southeastern Anatolia Project

Abstract

The concepts of security and development have been central to the theory and practice of international affairs. Even though there is little sense of common agreement within both arenas, there is a seeming consensus among international organizations, key think-tanks, and university-based research that security and development are interconnected. Arguably, the political and bureaucratic elite of Turkey has also long assumed that fusing security and development was desirable and would produce positive outcomes. The Southeastern Anatolia Project (Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi, or GAP in its Turkish acronym), the large-scale, multi-sectoral regional development project initiated in early 1980s in Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, sets a good example as to how the elite has conceived development–GAP in particular–as a complementary means to deal with Turkey’s Kurdish question and to maintain peace and security. This study examines this “nexus” between security and development and discusses the common and contrasting functions of these concepts with specific focus on how they were conceived within GAP framework. The study emphasizes that although it has become fashionable to talk about such a “nexus”, the relationship between security and development is far from being simple, static, and one-dimensional, and linking these concepts do not always lead to positive results. Therefore, the study puts forward an alternative approach and emphasizes that conceiving security-development relationship as a dynamic network of interconnections is a more flexible, inclusive, and fruitful approach.

Introduction

The concepts of security and development have been so central to the theory and practice of international affairs, as they often involve issues of life and death and determine the allocation of truly staggering amounts of the world’s resources (Spear & Williams, 2012). Indeed, there is no or little sense of common agreement within the arenas of security and development regarding what their core issues are, what they encapsulate, or what methods are the right ones to follow, let alone between them. Despite this, over time, these concepts have been linked to each other in both theoretical and practical levels, thus creating the elusive security-development “nexus” (Hettne, 2010). Even though the relationship between development and security is not a fundamentally new conceptual issue, it coincides with the end of the Cold War when a deeper examination of the (inter)relationship of two arenas has begun within both academic and policy-making circles. Thus, in time there emerged an understanding that holds; in the words of the former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Kofi Annan, “In an increasingly interconnected world, progress in the areas of development, security and human rights must go hand in hand. There will be no development without security and no security without development” (UN, 2005).

Arguably, the political and bureaucratic elite of Turkey was not immune to this trend, assuming that fusing security and development was desirable and would produce positive outcomes. A close examination of the implementation of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi, or GAP in its Turkish acronym) would illustrate this mindset and support the argument above. Briefly, GAP was initiated as a land and water resources development project in early 1980s in Southeastern Anatolia Region, the least developed and densely Kurdish populated region of Turkey. The project that envisages the construction of 22 dams and 19 hydraulic power plants for the irrigation of 1.82 million hectares of land was later on transformed into a large-scale, multi-sectoral regional development project based on the sustainable human development concept to be implemented in the administrative provinces of Adiyaman, Batman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Kilis, Mardin, Siirt, Sanliurfa and Sirnak in the basins of the Euphrates and Tigris and in Upper Mesopotamia (Altinbilek & Tortajada, 2012; Carkoglu & Eder, 2005). Even though the primary aim of the political and bureaucratic elite in implementing the project was to overcome long-standing disparities in income, employment and in other socio-economic indices between the region and the rest of the country (Mutlu, 1996), it can as well be argued that the secondary aim of the state was to deal with the Kurdish question and re-establish its legitimacy and sovereignty in the region (Harris, 2008). In other words, the rough logic behind the project was that GAP would introduce a modern, irrigation-based agriculture and market integration, bring a new lifestyle to the region, diminish the importance of tribal relations and extended families, uplift the income levels and living standards of people living in the region, remove inter-regional development disparities, and finally play a role in ending the conflict by creating a climate less hospitable to future secessionist movements (Jongerden, 2010). In that sense, while the elite conceived development as a complementary means to deal with the Kurdish question and to maintain peace and security, GAP has become the major institutional mechanism through which specifically the social projects were implemented in the region (Ozok-Gundogan, 2005, p. 94).

Due to space constraints and vast literature on security and development, it is beyond the scope of this concise study to elaborate on the theoretical and methodological debates within each arena, or on the history and technical details of GAP. The purpose of the study is rather to emphasize that although it has become fashionable to underline the need to fuse security and development and to talk about a security-development “nexus,” the relationship between these two is far from being simple, static, and one-dimensional, and linking these concepts do not always result in positive outcomes. Examples from various security and development activities worldwide, as well as from GAP in specific will be given to bolster this argument. To this end, first, the background of the security and development “nexus” will be given in a concise yet comprehensive manner. Following this, the common and contrasting functions of security and development will be discussed. Later on, closer attention to GAP will be paid to illustrate how the relationship between security and development was conceived within GAP framework. To conclude, an alternative and more inclusive conceptualization of the relationship between two concepts will be provided.

Security-development “Nexus”

Like most social phenomena, the security-development nexus is not entirely new; historically the interminglings of strategies of security and development have been commonplace in policy debates and implementation. The difference, though, is that there was no explicit nexus spoken of, but rather separate discourses about either development (such as economics, progress, wealth) or security (such as peace, politics, order, stability), in which the interrelationship of the concepts and practices inhered (Hettne, 2010). Accordingly, while earlier debates saw the relationship between security and development primarily as abstract interdependence, the current debates focus more directly on the convergence in conceptual and practical policy terms (Klingebiel, 2006). In other words, even though historically there have been attempts to relate security with development or vice versa, contrary to the contemporary scene, none of this was carried out in the name of a nexus, that is, an explicit articulation of the connections between the two (Stern & Ojendal, 2010).

Specifically after the end of the Cold War, however, the necessity of linking security and development in both theoretical and practical levels has almost become a policy mantra (Tschirgi, 2006). In this context, not only economic and political entities such as the European Union or African Union, international finance institutions such as the World Bank, intergovernmental organizations such as the UN, but also a considerable number of nation states have followed the vigorous calls to integrate security and development perspectives and policies (Klingebiel, 2006). This approach gained greater currency especially after al-Qaeda attacks on the United States (US) on September 11, 2001, on Spain on March 11, 2004, on the United Kingdom (UK) on July 7, 2005, as well as after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003 by the US. In a sense, after these incidents the “underdevelopment,” “fragility,” “backwardness,” “poverty,” “risks of civil war” of some states have started to be perceived as direct or indirect threats to the security and well-being of “developed” Western states. In other words, as Duffield (2006) argues, the problem of “underdevelopment” in the global South had been increasingly securitized as a source of instability, which could affect global North. Development has thus become a project to support peace and stability of the North.

This shift has become evident in security, development, and foreign policies of the states, as well as international organizations. Security policies and foreign policy as a whole have increased in significance in the planning and implementation of development policies.  Conversely, security policy has increasingly to do with developing and transition counties and their stability and fragility (Klingebiel, 2006). In other words, while development/”underdevelopment” has become a matter of national security in the eyes of many states, a considerable number of international organizations have also formulated their policies based on the assumption that security and development are interconnected and there is a strong and automatic linkage between two. Indeed, there were opposing views to this. Instead of taking such an “obvious” and automatic nexus that would ideally lead to positive policy outcomes for granted, skeptics draw attention to the role of development processes and strategies on generating insecurity and conflict (Tschirgi, 2009). In other words, they underline  how ordinary people may end up with contradictory consequences of top-down security and development perspectives and how they have to sacrifice their well-being and safety as states refer emergency regulations to entrench their position of power (Orjuela, 2010). Given such disagreements amongst theorists, between theorists and policy-makers, and amongst policy-makers, instead of sanctifying the relationship between two concepts under a nexus, it would make better sense to examine how they relate to each other before reaching to rapid conclusions regarding the usefulness of such linkage.

Common Functions of Security and Development

Indeed, security and development serve a range of functions for a variety of different actors, and some of them are common. To begin with, security and development are both regularly used to legitimize action and are deployed instrumentally as justificatory devices (Spear & Williams, 2012). At this point, it is worth mentioning the notion of “securitization” developed by the “Copenhagen School” as the product of close collaboration of Ole Waever and Barry Buzan in 1980s. Very briefly, securitization holds the idea that security issues or threats do not simply exist objectively “out there,” but are constructed discursively by powerful actors. Security issues are constructed through speech acts wherein the utterance itself is the act. In other words, it is by labeling something a security issue that it becomes one – not that issues are security issues in themselves and then afterwards possibly talked about in terms of security (Waever, 2004). Thus, the designation of the threat as existential justifies the use of extraordinary measures that would otherwise be unthinkable, such as placing constraints upon civil liberties and justification of the use of force to handle it (Bilgin, 2010). In other words, security elite often deliberately chooses to securitize issues by labeling them as such in order to be able to continue holding the upper hand in policy prioritizing and decision-making process (Aras, Toktaş & Kurt, 2010). The fact that many countries restrict some rights and liberties of their citizens for the sake of “national security” during and after an act of terror or violence, illustrates the justificatory function of security. On the other hand, the implementation of The Narmada Valley Development Project in India, which comprises of 3,200 dam projects that would irrigate more than 1.8 million hectares of land and bring drinking water to drought-prone areas, can be given as an example to the justificatory function of development. To elaborate, opponents of this project claim that these benefits are vastly exaggerated and that more than 300,000 people have to be displaced without adequate compensation (Ziai, 2009). Even though the environmental and social impacts of the project had been neither adequately considered nor addressed, the government pursued the project using fraud and deception to implement its resettlement schemes and occasionally resorting to violence to suppress protests, as hundred thousands of indigenous people lost their homes for the sake of development (Ziai, 2009).

Another common function of security and development is that they represent political choices; money spent on one cannot be spent elsewhere. Within each arena, numerous issues compete for attention and funding, with different issues gaining prominence at different times (Spear & Williams, 2012). Accordingly, for instance, states may have to spend less on non-security issues if security actors gain a greater slice of the budget. Likewise, depending on the political and economic trends, states may face difficult choices in giving foreign and humanitarian aid to developing countries. To illustrate, major donors’ aid to developing countries had to fall by nearly 3% in 2011, breaking a long trend of annual increases due to the financial crisis of 2008 (OECD, 2012). A more concrete example could be that while US aid to Africa was at its peak in 1985 due to the global competition with the Soviet Union, after the end of the Cold War security assistance levels for Africa began to decline and aid was diverted into the transition states of the former Soviet bloc (Dagne, 2011).

In addition to these, it can be argued that security and development are important political values. That is, to borrow Harold Laswell’s famous definition of politics, they play significant roles in determining who gets what, when, and how (Spear & Williams, 2012). Security and development are also political, but not altruistic values in the sense that both are generally undertaken with the expectation to eventually have political gains. For instance, the US and Saudi Arabia have a longstanding security relationship and have cooperated closely on this front for nearly 60 years. However, in this relationship, the US provides Saudi Arabia security cover, while Saudi Arabia ensures the free flow of oil boosting production at times of crises (Doyle, 2013; USDoS, 2013). In a similar manner, considering Turkey’s trade volume with sub-Saharan African countries that increased from $742 million in 2000 to almost $7.5 billion in 2011, Turkey’s activities ranging from opening and upgrading of more than 30 embassies in the continent to giving subsidized loans, technical support and preferential trade status to certain countries are not purely altruistic, but political in terms of serving Turkey’s commercial, security and political interests (Allouche & Lind, 2013).

Contrasting Functions of Security and Development

Indeed, the concepts of security and development also have contrasting functions, rendering the linkage of the two difficult and at times unfruitful. For instance, even though security and development experts sometimes use the same vocabulary, work on the same issues, and increasingly work in the same geographical spaces, they often continue to speak past each other, as each often assumes that the other arena is unproblematic (Spear & Williams, 2012). In a sense, those in the development arena understand disputes of their own arena, but not those of the security arena, or vice versa. In a context where security and development experts have different worldviews, begin from different starting points, prioritize entirely different problems, use different approaches to achieve different outcomes to overcome challenges, it is questionable to what extent merging the two arenas together is meaningful or desirable. Arguably, part of the reason for this is that security and development are what social scientists refer to as derivative and relative concepts. Accordingly, how one thinks about security [and development] depends on the assumptions a person or a society holds about human nature and politics, as well as his or her philosophical worldview (Bilgin, 2010). To illustrate this point in the context of Afghanistan, both security and development have different connotations to different actors. For the people, security not only means protection from physical violence, but also a reliable supply of food and water. For soldiers, in contrast, security basically means being safe from bullets and bombs, as they are trained to fight–not to become social workers (Schetter, 2010).

Another clear point of contrast between security and development concerns the timelines they routinely deal with. While development is considered to be a longer process, for the security arena timelines are much more immediate. This contrast is a major source of tension. To illustrate, in Afghanistan and Iraq, militaries have taken on projects that can be completed with an expectation that they will have lasting development value. They have often been disappointed. Also, development actors there were also frustrated that they were being expected to achieve development outcomes in double-quick time. As expected, they have been disappointed as well (Spear & Williams, 2012).

Ironically, another point of contrast is stemming from the diversification of security studies to encompass a wide range of new theoretical perspectives and issues after the end of the Cold War. To be more specific, since early 1990s, the concept of “new security” that moves beyond designation and elimination of military threats and that gives centrality to provision of happiness and welfare to humans has been more popular (Bilgin, 2010). Within this new approach, security has been “deepened” and “broadened.” Security was deepened through consideration of different referent objects above and below the traditional focus on state, such as human beings, social groups, and ethnic groups. It was also broadened through focusing on sectoral issue areas beyond the use of military, such as economic, environmental, societal, and cyber security (Spear & Williams, 2012). This expansion has led the concept of human security to achieve a striking prominence within academia and policy-making circles, specifically after the releases of “Agenda for Peace” by the former UN Secretary General Boutros Ghali in 1992 and “Human Development Report” by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1994 (Duffield, 2006). However, arguably the risk of adopting a broader and deeper security perspective is that such an approach may allow framing of almost every phenomenon as a national security issue and force security practitioners becoming engrossed in development issues. In a similar vein, there is a potential danger that development issues may be subordinated to a security policy agenda, dominated by military interests. A vivid example for this is the activities of the US military in Afghanistan to set up markets, build and run schools, dig wells to “win the hearts and minds” of the population and complete their mission (Kilcullen, 2009). Turkish Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), composed of civilian and military personnel in Wardak and Jawizcan provinces of Afghanistan, also set an example to this, as they also carry out development and welfare-related activities in healthcare, education, reconstruction, agriculture, civilian aid and training security forces (Ergun, 2011). In brief, the argument is that neither developmentalization of security nor militarization of development generates more security or development; rather, such engagement is seen as a handicap in terms of providing security and development as it should be.

Security, Development and GAP

Regardless of their level of development, almost all states engage in societal, economic and cultural activities to eliminate the regional development disparities. Arguably, implementation of regional development plans is the most common tool to reduce and eventually eliminate these disparities (Gökçe, et al., 2010). Turkey has also planned and implemented such plans towards this goal since 1963. Past development plans to develop the Eastern Anatolia Region, to control increasing population in Eastern Marmara Region, and to develop resourceful Southeastern Anatolia Region are only a few examples in this regard (Mengi, 2001).

GAP was a product of this line of thinking. As mentioned above, the project was initiated in early 1980s as a massive land and water resources development project. Through a Master Plan in 1989, GAP was transformed from a land and water resources development project into a multi-sector socio-economic development program encompassing such sectors as irrigation, hydraulic energy, agriculture, rural and urban infrastructure, forestry, education and health, with the aim to develop the region totally. After the significant revision of the Master Plan in 2000, the concepts such as sustainability, participation, empowerment of local capacities, equality and equity in development, enhancing human resources, gender in development have been integrated and prioritized within the GAP framework (GAP-BKİ & TBB, 2005). According to the latest GAP Action Plan covering the years between 2008 and 2012, the project now aims to implement economic development, ensure social development, improve infrastructure, and develop institutional capacity (GAP, 2012a). In other words, due to changes in the understanding and praxis of development and planning in global scale, as well as transformations in the region and in Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies, the project in time was transformed from an engineering project into a large-scale, multi-sectoral regional development project based on the sustainable human development concept.

Even though the political and bureaucratic elite of Turkey claims that the primary aim of the state in implementing this project is to overcome long-standing disparities in income, employment and in other socio-economic indices between the region and the rest of the country, as well as to contribute to national goals such as social stability and economic growth (GAP-BKİ, 2013), the secondary aims hidden in their discourses must not be overlooked. At this point, it would be appropriate to briefly examine such discourses since the beginning of 1990s. For instance, according to the GAP Region Action Plan of 1993, “putting GAP’s investment plans, specifically agricultural investments plans, that will accelerate regional economic growth into action will generously contribute to the solution of economic underdevelopment and unemployment problems, and this will drain the economic and social sources of terrorism.” In addition, according to the same document, “initiation of GAP will deter neighboring countries that support terrorism and convince them that they should be more reasonable towards Turkey” (GAP, 1993a).

Political elite of the time has also drawn attention to GAP’s security aspect and underlined the need to fuse security and development. For instance, the then Prime Minister Tansu Ciller states that “GAP was initiated to push the region into a growth process, as well as to contribute to the establishment of societal peace and order nation-wide (GAP-BKİ, 1993b). Another Prime Minister of the period, Mesut Yilmaz, also states that GAP would contribute to the establishment of societal peace and stability through growth, and would solve the serious security problem in the region quickly (GAP-BKİ, 1997).

This approach prevailed in 2000s, too. To illustrate the continuation, retired Ambassador Sukru Elekdag argues that GAP is essential to “ensuring Turkey’s national unity” and that it is of utmost importance in “bringing food, employment opportunities, a civilized infrastructure and education to the region in order to solve the Southeastern [Kurdish] problem” (GAP-BKİ, 2000a). At Turkish Grand National Assembly, too, GAP has many times been discussed in relation to Turkey’s national unity and territorial integrity, establishment of stability and trust, and regaining the trust of the citizens who feel alienated by state policies (TBMM, 2002). In addition to these debates, there have also been debates regarding the motivation to use the TV channel established under GAP, TRT-GAP, as a psychological and cultural warfare tool against the PKK (TBMM, 2008), and regarding GAP’s role to secure large cities through curbing immigration from the region (TBMM, 2009). A statement from the former president of GAP Regional Development Administration, Muammer Yasar, also indicates the continuation of the 1990’s approach in 2000s, when the security and political aspect of this development project is in question. Accordingly, he holds the belief that “As people have more income and a better social life, they stay away from terrorism. In other words, unemployment and underdevelopment in the region are sources that feed terrorism. As GAP advances, people’s social life, income level, and quality of life will change. Why would a person whose quality of life and lifestyle improves, be interested in terrorism?” (GAP-BKİ, 2012b).

In addition to illustrating the interest of Turkey’s political and bureaucratic elite to conceptualize the security and development relationship within a “nexus,” GAP also embodies some of the common and contrasting functions of security and development. To begin with the justificatory function of development, the negative impact of irrigation and energy projects within GAP on the social, cultural, historical, and ecological balances of the region, as well as the GAP-induced migration have been perceived as collateral damage or sacrifice given for the sake of development (Güler & Savaş, 2011). To continue with their function of determining how the resources are spent, it should be noted that an important portion of GAP investments made between 2008-2012 were funded through shifting the funds of Unemployment Insurance Fund to the project budget. Due to this shift, the allowances of the unemployed had to be cut in favor of GAP investments (Karadağ, 2013).

GAP also sets a good example to the problem of security and development experts’ rhetoric that disregards the other, and their assumption that the other arena is unproblematic. In this matter, it would be appropriate to quote an anecdote from the then Group Manager for Social Planning within GAP, Ahmet Saltik. According to the anecdote, when Saltik was speaking to a general from Turkish Armed Forces in Van province of Turkey in 1982, he was asked by the general to explain “what Development Foundation of Turkey does.” Saltik responds by saying that “Development Foundation of Turkey develops small models in rural settings and encourages locals to act in a more organized manner,” the general moans and says, “For God’s sake, we try to fight against these organizations, you encourage organized behavior!” (GAP-BKİ, 2000b). In a sense, the general, indeed without knowing, draws attention to a contrasting point between two arenas. GAP is also a good example of how timelines in both arenas conflict. The failure of the idea that bringing a “civilized” infrastructure to the region would provide security and GAP investments would eventually prevent Kurdish insurgency through eliminating problems of social underdevelopment and unemployment is illustrative of this point. Therefore, it is fair to argue that even though GAP has in time evolved into a different and more inclusive project thanks to the global, regional and national dynamics, the political and bureaucratic elite is still inclined to view the project within a narrow and one-dimensional security-development nexus. This position helps neither the better implementation and completion of the project itself, nor the solution of the Kurdish question, where GAP has been perceived as a panacea.

Concluding Remarks

Indeed, one single and concise study cannot provide a complete picture of the conceptual debate and issues, yet can provide an insight into various aspects of the relationship between security and development. Today, it is now beyond doubt that attention to the security–development “nexus” has become commonplace in national and global policymaking. There is a seeming consensus among international organizations, key think-tanks and university-based research that security and development are interconnected, and that their interrelationship is growing in significance given the evolving global political-economic landscape (Stern & Ojendal, 2010). Still, even though there is a convergence between security and development policies, their relationship in global politics is yet to be understood in either academia or policy-making circles. Given the common and contrasting functions of security and development arenas, it can indeed be argued that they are in close interaction with each other. The problem, however, lies in the complexity of the question as to how these two broad and different concepts should be linked together and conceptualized, or whether they should be linked together at all.

Considering that the borders, issues arenas, and policy realms are becoming more blurred and that there are vigorous calls within academia, as wells as policy-making circles to adopt a multi-, inter-, or even trans-disciplinary approach to address complex challenges at theoretical and practical levels, it is insufficient to conceive the relationship between security and development as a static and one-dimensional “nexus.” Approaches that frame security and development in either-or terms, conceive them as preconditions for each other, or prioritize one for the other are often one-dimensional and do not necessarily and always lead to positive outcomes. GAP sets a good example of this point, given how the project has been implemented and how the goals within GAP framework are still unmet. Even though the actors involved, dynamics, reciprocal demands, countering methods, and the context in general have considerably changed in Kurdish question since GAP was initiated, insisting on solving the security aspect of the problem through development is a vivid example of the static and one-dimensional conceptualization of the two arenas. Considering that issues such as the withdrawal of Kurdish insurgents, normalization, demands for education in mother tongue, but not development-related issues have been primarily negotiated within the current peace process between Kurds and the state, it is fair to argue that the “nexus” between security and development is anything but static and one-dimensional, specifically in the context of Kurdish question.

Instead of such static conceptualizations, conceiving security and development as highly interconnected, yet considering this interconnection highly context-dependent would be a more flexible, inclusive, and fruitful approach. Accordingly, there may be times security and development can come together and reinforce each other, but there may be other times the arenas diverge, lose their relevance, or undermine each other. There may as well be other situations in which security and development focus on entirely different issues and take different approaches. Their meanings attributed to them may change over time with the transformations of societies as well. Thus, rather than conceiving the relationship of two as a single, simple, and one-dimensional nexus, the relationship can be better understood as a dynamic network of interconnections in which processes and practices of security and development may support or impede each other, depending on the context.

Arda Bilgen, PhD Candidate, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn

Please cite this publication as follows:

Bilgen, Arda (April, 2014), “A Static Nexus or a Dynamic Network? Rethinking the Security-Development Relationship within the Context of Southeastern Anatolia Project”, Vol. III, Issue 4, pp.12-23, Centre for Policy Analysis and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=5859)

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