The number of non-governmental organizations in Turkey such as foundations, associations and civic initiatives which aim to undertake social responsibilities on a voluntary basis are increasing every day. A considerable majority of these organizations maintain relations with their international and foreign counterparts.
Foundations: The earliest document pertaining to the establishment of a foundation in Anatolia dates back to 1048. During the Ottoman era, Turkish-Islamic foundations, numbering almost 100,000, reached their zenith in terms of artistry, made great contributions to the social, economic and cultural life of the society and introduced solutions to social problems which were not taken up by the state.
During the Republican era, all the activities of the foundations were turned over to the Directorate General of Foundations (DGF) (1924) attached to the Prime Minister’s Office. Radical administrative changes were made in foundations, in line with the Foundations Law which came into effect in 1935, the Organizational Law for the Directorate General of Foundations adopted in 1956, and the Statutory Decree No. 227, which came into effect in 1984. The DGF owns more than 19,420 officially registered monumental foundation works and over 75 thousand foundation properties at present.
The principal task of the DGF is to make sure that all foundations function in line with their goals, to maintain the foundation spirit which is actually a notion of solidarity and to teach this spirit to the new generations. To this end, the DGF spends a substantial portion of its real estate revenues for charitable purposes.
There are nearly 41,550 registered foundations remaining from the Ottoman period which are currently administered and represented by the DGF. There are also 300 subsidiary foundations administered by descendents of the founders, 161 community foundations established by non-Muslim citizens, and 4,450 new foundations set up during the Republican period and still functioning at present.
A considerable number of foundations are engaged in the fields of education, culture, arts, sports, health, social welfare, science, technology, research, and environment. Some of the new foundations carrying out efficient activities at present are: The Contemporary Education Foundation, The Turkish Democracy Foundation, The Foundation for the Struggle against Erosion, Afforestation and Protection of Natural Assets of Turkey (TEMA), The Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), The Foundation for Strengthening the Turkish Armed Forces, The Mehmetçik Foundation, the Dr. Nejat F. Eczacıbaşı Foundation, The Foundation for Economic Development, The Rahmi M. Koç Museology and Culture Foundation, The Istanbul Culture and Arts Foundation, The Uğur Mumcu Research Journalism Foundation, The Sevda Cenap And Music Foundation, The Education Volunteers Foundation of Turkey (TEGV), The National Education Foundation, The Aydın Doğan Foundation, The Turkish Educational Foundation, The Hacı Ömer Sabancı Foundation, The Turkish Aid Foundation for the Weak and the Destitute, The Kartal Foundation, The Health and Education Foundation for Children Afflicted with Leukaemia (LÖSEV), The Çamlıca Culture and Aid Foundation, The Serving Good Deeds Foundation, The İzzet Baysal Foundation, The Turkish World Researches Foundation, The Turkish Wrestling Foundation, The Turkish Cardiology Founda-tion, The Foundation for Strengthening the Turkish Police Force, The Turkish Ar-med Forces Rehabilitation and Care Center Founda-tion, and The Uludağ Cul-ture and Education Founda-tion.
Associations: Under the Constitution, every citizen is free to establish an association without any prior authorization. Associations were established during the early years of the Republic particularly by the leadership and with the encouragement of the state. Through the legal and mental developments achieved in recent years within the frame of compliance to EU rules and regulations, a new era for associations has started, and the number of associations set up and membership numbers have increased considerably. The most important result achieved in this frame was to bind non-govermental activities to the Department of Associations, which is a non-governmental organization within the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Home Office). Various projects are being implemented in order to strengthen non-govermental associations and to provide better services and advantages to these associations.
The non-govermental organizations that comply with article 11 of the European Human Rights Treaty, carry out their activities on both a national and an international scale.
The number of associations set up to date is 195,818. A total of 77,798 associations are operational at present and they are engaged in a variety of activities ranging from sports, social welfare, culture, and health to women and artisan societies. While 43,287 associations are engaged in social work, 2,860 are engaged in cultural affairs, 12,406 of these are charitable societies, 5.655 of these associations are engaged in education, and 13,590 are engaged in sports activities.