Transforming state-civil society relations: centralization and externalization in refugee education

Nimer M.

NEW PERSPECTIVES ON TURKEY, vol.63, pp.32-54, 2020 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 63
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1017/npt.2020.21
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, ABI/INFORM, American History and Life, Historical Abstracts, Index Islamicus, Political Science Complete, Public Affairs Index, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.32-54
  • Keywords: migration, refugees, civil society organizations, state, language education, Syrians, Turkey, state institutions, bureaucracy, POLITICS, TURKEY
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: No


In the context of the arrival of Syrians as of 2011 and the subsequent humanitarian assistance received in light of the EU-Turkey deal in 2016, there has been increased control over civil society organizations (CSOs) in Turkey. Through the case study of language education, this paper examines the relationship between the state and CSOs as shaped by the presence of Syrian refugees and how it evolved through the autonomy of state bureaucracy. It demonstrates that increased control led to the proliferation of larger projects, the deterrence of smaller CSOs, and a hierarchy between organizations prioritizing those that are aligned with the state. It argues that this policy is not only the result of the increased lack of trust between state and civil society but also an attempt to channel funds through state institutions to handle an unprecedented number of refugees while externalizing some of its functions. At the same time, this emerging relationship effectively allows the state to avoid making long-term integration policies and facing growing tensions among the public. This study is based on a qualitative study encompassing interviews with state officials as well as stakeholders in different types of CSOs that deliver language education for adults.