Author

Priscilla Lecomte

Communication Specialist, Connecting Business initiative (CBi)

When a 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit south-east Türkiye on 6 February 2023, immediately followed by another powerful quake and hundreds smaller ones in the next few days, Arda and his team knew that small businesses would be among the hardest hit, impacting the Turkish economy for months.  

He also knew that small businesses would be best placed to immediately deliver assistance to people in dire need of support. That’s why within hours, the private sector in Türkiye mobilized in-kind and cash donations, working in close collaboration with Government and international partners. 

Local businesses supported the emergency response  

Arda Batu is the Secretary General & Board Member of the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TÜRKONFED), a confederation over 60,000 businesses in Türkiye. Along with Business for Goals, the organization is part of the OCHA-UNDP Connecting Business initiative (CBi), an international project mobilizing local businesses before, during, and after emergencies.  

“Türkiye is a disaster-prone country. Earthquakes are frequent, this is the reality. The question isn't IF we will have to face a deadly crisis, but WHEN, and HOW WELL we will be prepared for it. So our approach at TÜRKONFED is to make sure our members, from the big company to the small shop owner, know what to do in the event of an emergency.” 

In past few years, TÜRKONFED has trained hundreds of small enterprises on business continuity, and started dispatching “disaster packs”, an emergency response bag made up of useful supplies such as a solar lamps, water purification tabs, survival blankets and phone batteries, among others. 

On the day the earthquake happened, TÜRKONFED immediately activated its regional focal points. The network set up a crisis center and hotline to coordinate local businesses support. It also launched a donation campaign in support of the official call to action issued by the Turkish government’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (Afet ve Acil Durum Yönetimi Başkanlığı), or AFAD. 

Private sector mobilization of cash and in-kind donations  

Very quickly, Turkish businesses started sending donations. As of today, CBi Türkiye alone has reported in-kind donations worth over US$11 million, delivering: 

  • 243 trucks with donations of food and non-food items, including  

  • over 21,000 blankets,  

  • 395 shelter containers,  

  • more than 1,000 tents and 15, 000 beds,  

  • 4 soup kitchens and 3 mobile kitchens, 

  • 100 portable toilets and bathrooms,  

  • 53 generators,  

  • 1,000 heaters, and much more to affected areas. 

The network also helped humanitarian partners with accommodation and translation services as well as transportation for staff and search and rescue equipment. 

“From the moment the disaster hit, TÜRKONFED's Crisis Desk coordinated assistance from every region of Türkiye to the earthquake zone. In this context, we worked hand in hand with more than 60,000 members across Türkiye and many other stakeholders. A disaster of such magnitude requires cooperation between and among national and international actors. As such, we need to expand inclusive and participatory collaborations for the mid-to long-term recovery process.” 

In addition, the Connecting Business initiative is coordinating offers of support from international companies and business organizations from all over the world. CBi Member Networks from the Philippines, Indonesia and Mexico sent search and rescue experts  as well as emergency medical teams and technicians, through official Government missions, alongside donations and medical supplies.  

A few days after the earthquake, Arda traveled to the epicentre to witness aid delivery on the ground. “What I saw was complete devastation and grief. Everyone there had lost someone, a friend or a family member. Tens of thousands of people were made homeless overnight. But I also saw solidarity in action, hundreds of volunteers helping in reception centres and mobile kitchens. This was the light in the darkness that gave me hope for the future.” 

Working in close collaboration with the United Nations  

In the immediate aftermath of an emergency, the outpouring of donations can be a challenge to manage. That’s why CBi and other agencies keep advocating for cash donations, as a faster way to help affected populations. CBi also issued a Business Guide, offering concrete guidance to the private sector on how best to coordinate their efforts with the United Nations. 

In addition, CBi supported the UN's humanitarian response by deploying a private sector engagement focal point. Rhiza Nery, CBi Network Coordination Specialist, supports the UN's coordination structure by facilitating connections with the local and international private sector.  

“As the private sector focal point, I act as a neutral broker between the private sector and humanitarian partners. The private sector wants to help. My role is to facilitate connections with different actors to make sure we reach affected people in the most efficient way possible.”  

A long-term approach to disaster resilience  

TÜRKONFED is slowly moving from emergency response to recovery.  

“As we experienced in the past, the economies of disaster areas are seriously affected and it is difficult for them to recover,” said Arda Batu. “That’s why it’s so important to start collectively thinking medium- and long-term and see how business can be an integral part of recovery.”  

Already, the network has started assessing the impact of the disaster on the economy, estimating the total cost at over US$84 billion, including $70.8 billion from the repair of thousands of homes, $10.4 billion from loss of national income and $2.9 billion from loss of working days.   

One of the key aspects of recovery will be to rebuild the thousands of homes which have collapsed. TÜRKONFED is working closely with AFAD Türkiye to provide shelter containers in the affected zones, to offer middle-term housing solutions to earthquake victims.  

UNDP is working to ensure that recovery activities can start as early as possible, capitalizing on the agency’s 65 years of development and resilience work in Türkiye, in support of the Government-led response. UNDP aims to help clear the millions of tons of rubble generated when thousands of buildings collapsed; to restore livelihoods and revive small businesses; to assist local authorities in providing key social services; and to help protect damaged and endangered cultural heritage monuments in the area. The partnership between UNDP and key businesses in Türkiye, notably through the country office and the Istanbul International Centre for Private Sector in Development which hosts the Connecting Business initiative, will be critical to leverage private sector resources, capacities and expertise.  

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This earthquake was one of the deadliest of the century. But amid grief and destruction, there is hope. The extraordinary mobilization of the local private sector in the early hours of this emergency has demonstrated the added value of investing in local actors to build disaster resilience. In the next months and years, UNDP, through its country offices and various initiatives, will continue working with these actors, so that we are all better prepared for future crises.  

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A joint initiative of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Connecting Business initiative (CBi) supports private sector engagement before, during and after disasters. Within UNDP, CBi is part of the IICPSD. Since CBi’s launch in 2016, its Member Networks have helped respond to more than 100 crises and assisted around 18 million people. Read more in the 2021 CBi Annual Report.   

  

For more information about CBi, visit connectingbusiness.org.   

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Call to donation shared by CBi Türkiye to support the Government-led call for solidarity.