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“The World Is Bigger than Five”: A Salutary Manifesto of Turkey’s New International Outlook

President Erdoğan has expressed his objection to the current structure of the UN with the motto “the world is bigger than five.” The international systemic root of this objection is the failure of the UN to make adequate contribution to peace and prosperity. Among other reasons behind this call for change are the AK Party’s ideological orientation, Erdoğan’s charisma and his powerful sense of mission to carry the ‘periphery’ into the center as well as Turkey’s ascendancy to a rising power that has prompted it to advocate multipolarity in the international system. This article argues that the motto “the world is bigger than five” has a number of connotations: a strong support for a just and peaceful international order; a plea against permanent membership and the accompanying veto mechanism; a call for reforming the UN to render the UNSC more representative, transparent and accountable; and an outcry against imperialistic interventions.

The World Is Bigger than Five A Salutary Manifesto of
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan makes a speech during his party’s parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on November 19, 2019. GÜVEN YILMAZ/AA Photo
 

The world is bigger than five (in Turkish dünya beşten büyüktür)” is now a well-known motto, which has been consistently used and popularized by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since 2013, when he was prime minister. It could possibly be viewed as a follow-up to Turkey’s overall critique of the United Nations (UN) system in the course of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) rule since 2002. Erdoğan has coined this motto and used it on various domestic and international platforms as a manifestation of his frustration with the UN system and his vision of a more functional and representative UN. For example, during his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2014, he used this motto to draw on the tragic consequences of the privileged presence of the five permanent members (P-5), namely the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (UK), France, China, and Russia, within the UN Security Council (UNSC). These states all have the right to veto any draft resolutions, even if the required nine votes out of fifteen have been obtained.1 Erdoğan thus highlighted the failure of the UNSC in bringing about an effective solution to the conflicts in Palestine, Syria and many other places that have led to the loss of countless innocent lives. He also decried the disappointing silence of the Council in the course of the overthrow of Egypt’s first elected president Mohamed Morsi by a coup d’état in 2013 which, in his view, put the main raison d’être of the UN into question.2 In his address to the UN General Assembly on September 20, 2016, Erdoğan repeated the motto and said “The United Nations Security Council should be reformed in order to render peacekeeping and peace-making activities more effective… A Security Council that does not represent the entire world can never serve to re-establish peace and justice around the world.”3


Since the conditions that existed after the Second World War have fundamentally changed, the preferences and expectations of the humanity should no longer be held captive to the will of the five permanent members in the UNSC


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