The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the second largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations with 57 Member States spread over five Continents. Mandated to coordinate and streamline the collective voice of 1.5 billion Muslims all over the world, in the wake of the criminal arson of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969, OIC by no means is a religious organization. Completing over four decades of its existence, both the scope of the Organization’s work as well as its membership has expanded in large measure. It is interesting to note how over the years the Organization’s role has grown from a predominantly political body to include areas which touch upon the quality of life and well being of our people. A brief reference in the declaration of the first Islamic Summit Conference (Rabat, 22-25 September 1969), expressing resolve to ‘consult together’ for promoting cooperation and mutual assistance in the economic, scientific, cultural and spiritual fields, was only beginning of a long journey on the road to development. It brought forth strong commitments at the highest political level to the shared future, comradery and solidarity which found concrete expressions in many ways. The decisions in the 1970s and 1980s laid the foundation of an institutional infrastructure to service the OIC’s aspirations in the political, socio-economic, cultural and educational domains. These included decisions regarding setting up of universities in Niger, Uganda and Bangladesh, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Islamic Solidarity Fund (ISF), and a host of other specialized and subsidiary institutions such as the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICIC), the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), the Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Center for Islamic Countries (SESRIC) and the Islamic Center for the Development of Trade (ICDT).
The OIC Member States share cultural values and beliefs, and most of them are at the same level of development and face common challenges.
These commonalities make a strong argument for collaboration among themselves. In today’s globalized world, however, the contemporary challenges of poverty, disease, environmental degradation, food security, transnational crime, terrorism and alike necessitate collective responses at the global level. The OIC’s strategic vision, therefore, recognizes the centrality of cooperation at regional, sub-regional and international levels. The OIC’s special initiatives for central Asia and Africa along with similar arrangements at international level, such as, Strategic Health Plan of Action, Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD), International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), to name a few, highlight its pursuits at various levels. The OIC and its institutions maintain strong cooperative arrangements with the United Nations and a large number of its agencies in various domains. The OIC was recognized as its strategic partner by the UN Secretary General in dealing with issues of global peace and security. Many important political organizations like League of Arab States, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Non-aligned Movement, Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), West Africa Economic and Monitory Union (WAEMO), Intergovernmental Authority for African Development (IGAD) and a large number of international humanitarian organizations have entered into general agreements with the OIC.
The OIC’s international outreach is reflected in its institutional arrangements for consultations with the United States, China, UK, France, Australia, Italy, Canada and the grant of observer status to the Russian Federation. Many of the OIC Member States and the European Countries have long established bilateral relationship between them which further enhances the potential for stronger partnership.
The scope of cooperation between the OIC and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is vast as both organizations are devoted to the cause of international peace, security and development. We can build upon this relationship through increased interaction and regular consultations. In addition, the two sides can work together in mobilizing their people to tackle hatred, intolerance and promote respect for the whole range of civil, social, cultural, economic and political rights. Furthermore, the OIC is keen on furthering relations and intensifying cooperation with the EU on issues of mutual concern such as the Palestinian issue, human rights, socio-economic development and humanitarian aid.
The stature and strength of any organization and its influence is dependent on its relevance to the people. Every success, no matter how small, in bringing about a change in the lives of the people adds to the Organization’s credibility and commensurately enhances its influence. In this regard, the Ten-Year Programme of Action (TYPOA) launched in 2005 has been a very rewarding experience for the OIC. The underlying vision of the TYPOA has been to make the OIC more reflective of the realities of the 21st Century and expand its activities to become more relevant to the challenges being faced by the Member States. It has contributed significantly in promoting meaningful partnership and cooperation among national, regional and international stakeholders in all areas of peace and development. The route to development is through partnership and cooperation. The OIC stands ready to cooperate with all the partners in realizing our shared aspirations for a better tomorrow.