The sustainability approach has begun to be embraced at the end of the 1970s on the axis of environmental damage created by economic growth and development in Turkey. Though it is a late start compared to international debates, these discussions have been followed comprehensively over time through both official channels and civil society. In this sense, establishing the Prime Ministry of Undersecretariat for Environment to be involved in these discussions and environmental activities in 1978, could be considered as the milestones.
Although the concept of sustainability entered Turkey's agenda at the end of the '70s, only the concept of “environmental protection” could be found in the '82 Constitution, and the concepts of sustainability and sustainable development were outside the scope of the constitution. In other words, the discussions conducted were not handled by all official channels at the beginning of the '80s. Parallel to this approach, in Turkey, until the middle of the '90s, regulations on the protection of the environment and the management of natural resources were removed. And Turkey became a party to many international agreements such as the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. However, sustainability still failed to find a place in the agenda of official mechanisms (Özmehmet, 2008).
From the 1990s onwards, sustainability discussions have started to include rights based advocacy, as the conflict between economy and ecology has become increasingly visible. From this point on, protection of the environment has now begun to be expressed as a prerequisite for a healthy society and economy.
It is possible to follow this transformation of approach in particular through the Five Year Development Plans. In these development plans prepared by the State Planning Organization, a separate place was given for the first time to the environmental problems in the 3rd Five Year Development Plan covering the plan between 1973-77. In parallel with the Rio Conference, which took place in 1992 after the 6th Five Year Development Plan, the Undersecretariat of Environment, which was determined to be inadequate in the context of sustainable development discussions, left its place to the Ministry of Environment. The concept of Sustainable Development could finally take place in the 7th Five Year Development Plan.
The concept of sustainability emerges as a concept that is used together with economic and social policies from the very first moment, even though it was late for its use of government resources. The first step was writing the National Environment Strategy and Action Plan (NESAP) between 1995 and 1998. When it’s looked at the content of this plan, it’s seen that European Union’s environment standards and regulations have been considered (Özmehmet, 2008). From this, it can be said that the European Union and the negotiation processes have positive effects on the sustainability debates and activities in Turkey.
Turkey has also been involved in important agreements in the process of sustainable development, such as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Montreal Protocol, and the Kyoto Protocol. It is very positive that Turkey, as a late industrialized and developing country, has become a party to these contracts, with the Aarhus Convention, the Paris Convention, and other important contracts.
Since 2000’s private sector has been actively involved in this photo. This pioneering role of the private sector has helped sustainability and sustainable development concepts reach wider masses and make their activities more comprehensive. Especially in today's world, where the concept of "transparency" comes to the forefront, it has become a necessity to make it a part of the sustainability strategy of the private sector. In time, consumers have started to demand more on sustainable products too and thus nowadays sustainability has become a part of the production. At the same time, this mission of the private sector became even more important nowadays when sustainability is taken together with social transformation.
Özmehmet, E. (2008). Dünyada ve Türkiye’de Sürdürülebilir Kalkınma Yaklaşımları. Journal of Yaşar University, 3(12), 1853-1876.