What to expect from the new Organization of Islamic Cooperation?

  • 2011-08-31
  • Prepared by Linas Jegelevicius

In light of recent events in the Middle East and North Africa, linked with the succession of revolutions and the collapse of existing regimes in the regions, the activity of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) becomes more important. This international organization is increasingly seen as an ideal platform in the stabilization of the political situation in the Arab countries, undergoing fundamental changes and facing a post-crisis recovery.

With this background, in the social circles of many Muslim countries, there is a great interest in Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the OIC, which began in June this year. There is no doubt that Astana has started to work in this capacity in one of the most difficult periods experienced by the Islamic community.

Currently, the OIC has been through sharp debates on the issues of international and regional security. Along with the problem of the so-called “Arab revolution,” the member countries discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict, the internal disputes among the political forces of Palestine, and, at this stage, the existing inter-Arab conflicts. In addition, the OIC covers a wide range of issues of international cooperation, including political, socio-economic and scientific-technical cooperation. The major goals of the organization are also to create conditions for sustainable development of the OIC member countries.

With the good experience of chairing the OSCE in the past year, Kazakhstan has already presented its priorities in the OIC. They mostly relate to the aspects of international security and stability, strengthening economic ties and seeking further development of the intercultural and interfaith dialogue.

Speaking about the OIC, international observers cannot help but draw a parallel with the OSCE. First, both organizations represent dialogue, linking countries, including those geographically distant from each other. Secondly, the spectrum of problems of these structures mostly is the same, representing three key areas: international security, economic and trade cooperation and humanitarian issues. And, thirdly, Kazakhstan, having completed the OSCE chairmanship last year, started to work with the OIC, benefiting from the “European” experience and new ideas in July this year.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that Kazakhstan in the OIC may face some difficulties. In particular, the OSCE takes up the European countries that share common values, are more or less comparable in socio-economic, cultural and political figures. However, the OIC’s member countries are more divided over parameters, and the organization is rather a union of several blocks.

Nevertheless, the chairmanship institute in the OSCE and OIC is different. Thus, the role of secretary general and the secretariat of the OIC is more powerful and meaningful than in the OSCE. The essential difference is that in the OIC, unlike the OSCE, it follows its statutes, an updated version of which was approved at the 11th summit in Dhaka in March 2008.
Collegiality and continuity in the OIC, in accordance with the statute, is provided by  the Executive Committee of the OIC, which includes the countries carrying out the present, previous and future summits and foreign ministers, as well as Saudi Arabia, where the headquarters of the secretariat of the OIC are located, and where the secretary general himself resides.

Nevertheless, the secretary general of the OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, emphasized at the OSCE summit in Astana in December 2010 that both organizations deal with the issues of international peace, security and development of ​​cooperation, where the field of OSCE and OIC mutual cooperation is very extensive. “We need to take full advantage of this opportunity, giving impulses to our cooperation on the basis of expansion of cooperation and consultation,” said Ihsanoglu.

At present, we can confidently say that nearly all the OIC member states consider Kazakhstan to be one of the key players, expecting from it implementation of new breakthrough ideas. In the Muslim world, there is the opinion that Kazakhstan has the potential to ensure that the organization would lead to serious success, improve its efficiency and to bring together two important international organizations – the OIC and the OSCE.

Certainly, one of the main objectives of the OIC member states is the cooperation of the Islamic countries in tackling modern challenges and threats. In this regard, it is expected that Kazakhstan, as the new OIC chairman, will play a key role in this area and, in particular, in promoting the integration of Central Asia with the rest of the OIC.

Given the huge political and economic potential of Kazakhstan, effectively all members of the organization expect that the goals will be achieved.
The OIC, as well as any other international organization of its kind, is seeking to become a cohesive structure that retains respect for the sovereignty of its member states. It should be recognized that in today’s world no country can survive alone. This principle is shared by Kazakhstan, repeatedly demonstrating its commitment to develop integration processes.
Deputy Secretary General of the OIC, Abdul Buhari Muiz, is confident that the Astana OSCE Summit and the involvement in its negotiation processes of the OIC representative have become significant achievements of Kazakhstan.

Bearing in mind this and many other aspects, the OIC member states are sure that Kazakhstan’s chairmanship will play an important role in the development of both the organization and the Muslim community as a whole. The OIC participants expect that this international organization will be substantially modernized and will receive a significant boost from the initiatives of Kazakhstan, which demonstrated its excellent performance during its OSCE chairmanship last year.

Provided by the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Lithuania