The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the second largest sui generis intergovernmental organization after the 193-member United Nations in terms of membership and is mantle of collective voice of the Muslim world. The Organization has the mandate to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim states in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony.
On August 21, 1969, Dennis Michael Rohan, an Australian Jew, set on fire the southeastern wing of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, burning Salahudddin’s Pulpit and destroying approximately one-third of the total area. Israeli occupying forces cut off the water supply and prevented the fire engines from arriving on time to extinguish the fire. This watershed event in Muslim history necessitated the formulation of an organization for pragmatic handling of any such situation in future. Hence, on 12th Rajab 1389 Hijra (25 September 1969), the Organization of Islamic Conference was established upon a decision of the historic summit held in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco. The meeting was the first unified expression of the Muslim Ummah of its determination to safeguard its interests, speak with one voice and ensure the progress and well being of the Muslims in the world.
The bloc changed its name to Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation on 28 June 2011 during the 38th Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Objectives of OIC
Article 1 of the OIC Charter enunciates 20 objectives for the Organization. Under the Charter, the Organization aims to:
(a) Islamic solidarity among Member States;
(b) Cooperation in the political, economic, social, cultural and scientific fields;
(c) The struggle of all Muslim people to safeguard their dignity, independence and national rights.
2. Coordinate action to:
(a) Safeguard the Holy Places;
(b) Support the struggle of the Pales-tinian people and assist them in getting their rights and liberating their occupied territories.
3. Work to:
(a) Eliminate racial discrimination and all forms of colonialism;
(b) Create a favourable atmosphere for the promotion of cooperation and understanding between Member States and other countries.
Structure of Organization
The Organization is composed of the following main bodies:
- The Islamic Summit—composed of Kings and Heads of State and Government of Member States is the supreme authority of the Organization. It convenes once every three years to deliberate, take policy decisions and provide guidance on all issues pertaining to the realization of the objectives.
- The Council of Foreign Ministers—meets once a year and considers the means for the implementation of the general policy of the Organization.
- The General Secretariat—the executive organ of the Organization, entrusted with the implementation of the decisions of the two preceding bodies.
Failures of OIC
- Lack of Cohesion and Unity— Inter-state differences among Member States; Shia-Sunni conflict; contentious foreign policy; Western influence; territorial disputes and intra-Arab conflicts have eclipsed OIC’s efficacy.
- Rising Islamophobia— In the West, Islam is (wrongly) perceived as a threat to Western values such as liberalism, democracy, individualism, women emancipation, etc. The OIC has failed to counter this flawed and bogged narrative
- Terrorism and Fundamentalism — These burning issues of the modern world have stigmatized the image of Islam. Growing incidence of violence, suicide attacks, sectarian cleavages and increasing popularity of the religio-political parties are the main features of negative Western approach about Islam. The OIC has failed to devise any effective strategies to curb these.
- Inter- and Intra-state Conflicts— Unresolved conflicts e.g. Arab-Iran-Turk, Libya-Chad, Armenia-Azerbaijan, Afghanistan-Pakistan are the flagrant examples of OIC’s failure.
- Deprivation of Human Development — OIC members represent 22 percent of the world population, but have only 2 percent of the world’s GDP, 1.3 percent of the world trade and only 1.5 percent of the investments. Twenty-five percent of OIC population does not have access to medical facilities or safe drinking water. No Muslim country is in the top list of the Human Development Index or in any other global economic indicators. But, OIC is still dormant and no proper solutions to these issues have been carved out yet.
- Neglecting Education — The OIC member countries possess 70 percent of the world’s energy resources and 40 percent of available raw material but their GDP is only 5 percent of the world GDP. Still, Muslim countries miserably lag behind in education and technology. They produce only 500 PhDs each year as compared to 3,000 in India and 5,000 in the United Kingdom. None of their educational or research institutions or centres of excellence finds place in the top 100 in the world. But, OIC seems completely oblivious to this fact.
Suggestions for the improvement of OIC
- Pluralistic norms; promotion of accountability and transparency; and promotion of human rights are significant political traits for the refinement of this legal body.
- Promotion of CBM’s (confidence- building measures) conflict prevention and conflict management strategies to release ethnic, sectarian and racial tensions are needed.
- Collective security system and counter-terrorism strategies would increase the value of OIC in the eyes of Western world which have tarnished or abused the true image of Islam.
- Moreover, OIC should establish its own Muslim Court of Justice on the line of International Court of Justice to resolve their contentions.
- There should be the formulation and execution of sustainable economic policies—capacity- building, micro credit schemes, intra-state trade and optimal use of resources—minerals, human resource, fiscal resources to eradicate economic and social miseries among member states.
- Budgetary allocation should be made to work on research and development, science and technology, and academic opportunities. A consortium should be developed for the spread of education in form of universities and scholarships.
- OIC must establish its media channel to represent the true image of the Muslim world.
- Religious intelligentsia should proliferate and propagate the substantial meaning of Islam. Furthermore, diversity in Islam needs to be accepted rather than to blame any sect for their particular believes.
Pakistan and OIC
Pakistan is a founding member of the OIC. It shared with OIC a legacy rooted in the Islamic faith and its consistent support of Muslim causes, and public support for the cause of liberation of Al-Quds. Pakistan has a privileged and affluent position in OIC because of its unique status as only atomic power in the Muslim Ummah. Relations with the Islamic world are the cornerstone of the foreign policy of Pakistan. The country has an abiding commitment to the purposes, principles and objectives of the OIC Charter. Pakistan has made some extremely useful proposals to lift the Islamic world out of its present dilemmas.
The suggestions are related to (I) an institutional mechanism for conflict prevention and resolution with member states; (ii) a network of centres of excellence in science and technology; (iii) establishment of a permanent forum of Islamic thought to provide guidance and opinion; (iv) allocation of adequate financial resources to implement these proposals; (v) allocation of at least 0.5 percent of the GDP by the member states for implementing OIC objectives; and (vi) a dedicated department in the OIC Secretariat for promoting intra-OIC trade.
The 13th Islamic Summit Conference on “Unity and Solidarity for Justice and Peace”
The 13th Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit – with the theme “Unity and Solidarity for Justice and Peace” – held in Istanbul, Turkey from April 14-15, 2016, came at a time when there seems to be no apparent unity within the Muslim world. The Conference, attended by more than 30 heads of states, was chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
As is customary, the two-day conference produced three documents – the Final Communiqué, the Istanbul Declaration, and Resolution on the Cause of Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
The 218-para communiqué is a detailed narrative, which touched upon almost all the problems facing the Muslim world. The document, which can be divided into three mainsections: political, economic and counter-terrorism issues, addressed a wide range of subjects like the Palestine issue, the Syria crisis, the Arab-Israeli conflict, conflicts in Africa, counter-terrorism, poverty, unemployment, economic cooperation, etc. Twenty-two paragraphs of the Istanbul Declaration focused mainly on Palestine and counter-terrorism. The 35-paragraph resolution exclusively deals with protecting Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the Palestinian people from Israeli aggression.
The communiqué speaks about the centrality of the cause of Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif for the Muslim Ummah. The Summit supported the Palestinian people’s struggle to regain their inalienable national rights, including the right to self-determination, and an end to Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories since 1967. It called for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, in accordance with UN resolutions.
The communiqué strongly supported the Afghan National Unity government and its efforts to fight terrorism. It welcomed the Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts, which will help restore peace and security in Afghanistan.
The summit also expressed hope that negotiations, which began in Geneva on April 13, 2016, would contribute to resolving the Syrian crisis as soon as possible.
The summit reaffirmed OIC’s support for the people of Jammu and Kashmir in realising their legitimate right to self-determination. The communiqué termed Jammu and Kashmir as “Indian-Occupied Kashmir” (IOK) and reaffirmed that IOK is the core dispute between Pakistan and India, and its resolution is indispensable for peace and security in South Asia. The Communiqué came at a time when the situation in Kashmir was volatile due to protests and curfews and police firing that killed five civilians. In response, India took offence at this reference, lodging a protest to the OIC chair.