By Erlan Idrissov, Special to Gulf News, Nov 16, 2012
For the OIC to be successful, many of its member states need to find solutions to their problems of political and socio-economic development
Kazakhstan’s Chairmanship of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) ended on Thursday when it was succeeded by Djibouti. As Kazakhstan prepares to hand over the reins, it is time to reflect on what it set out to do and what it believes it has accomplished.
Kazakhstan took on the chairmanship in June 2011 for two reasons — first, because it believes that the OIC provides an important mechanism for uniting the Islamic world at a time when pan-Islamic unity and solidarity is needed; and second, because it felt it could add important new impulses to the OIC’s long-standing objectives of promoting modernisation in the Islamic world in line with the values of Islam, based on peace, tolerance and human dignity.
Kazakhstan assumed the chairmanship at a particularly challenging moment after the events of the “Arab Awakening”. There were evidences, in some cases, of the lack of economic and social modernisation that had delayed progress and deprived millions of people in OIC countries of justice, stability and a better future.
Speaking at the June 2011 Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan’s President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, emphasised that the Islamic world, despite its vast economic potential, still had to solve the fundamental issues of peace and modernisation and address the vital needs of ordinary people.
Kazakhstan continues to believe that the OIC’s main focus should be on promoting economic development and competitiveness through trade and investment policies based on effective investment in education, science and technology.
This explains why Kazakhstan has proposed, during its chairmanship, a number of major initiatives — including the establishment of a dialogue platform for the ten leading Islamic economies, the creation of an international centre of innovations, support for small and medium-sized businesses and the development of a system of food security within the OIC.
At the same time, Kazakhstan has placed strong emphasis on formulating and implementing the OIC Special Programme for Central Asia — a set of measures to promote economic and social development in the region and in neighbouring OIC member states.
Kazakhstan has strongly promoted inter-faith and inter-religious dialogue based on the experience in Kazakhstan — a country where Islam and Christianity meet and coexist peacefully alongside numerous other religions and faiths.
Kazakhstan has also made Afghanistan an area of priority focus and has supported the OIC’s long-standing efforts to promote sustainable peace through socio-economic development and reconstruction. Through its bilateral assistance programme, for example, Kazakhstan is devoting significant resources to re-developing agriculture to improve the economy and reduce unemployment.
Based on the support and encouragement the country has received from other member states and the OIC’s secretariat, Kazakhstan believes that its approach has contributed to strengthening the OIC and given it new impulses in the second half of its Ten-Year Programme of Action. This began in 2005 and is aimed at promoting tolerance, modernisation, wide-ranging reforms as well as good governance and promotion of human rights.
Looking beyond Kazakhstan’s chairmanship, there are three main priorities for OIC countries: Regional stability, gradual political modernisation and strengthening the capacity of the OIC itself.
Sustaining regional stability is an acute priority challenge. Instability in one country can spill over into another with dangerous consequences. The intensification of the crisis in Syria, for example, risks moving beyond a potential humanitarian catastrophe to become a source of regional instability and even conflict. Kazakhstan continues to believe that the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs must be upheld and that efforts to resolve the crisis must focus on bringing together representatives of the Syrian government and opposition forces to halt the bloodshed and develop a plan for Syria’s transition.
Kazakhstan sees political modernisation in the Islamic world as essential to prevent countries from falling into the hands of extremists and allowing radical and destructive groups to mislead the population and destroy the social, ethnic and religious balance. We warmly welcome the efforts of the new leaderships of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to maintain social peace and equality based on democratic values. In the Islamic world, evolution — rather than revolution — is the safest and most effective way to establish effective systems of democratic rule, economic progress and social justice.
Finally, the OIC needs effective tools to pursue its ambitious agenda. Since the process of OIC reforms began in 2005, we have seen many impressive achievements. Kazakhstan strongly supports the efforts of the OIC and its Secretary-General, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, to maintain a bold and purposeful agenda, reflecting new priorities, while further strengthening the OIC’s international role through its own initiatives and its interaction with other organisations such as the G20, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Kazakhstan also strongly supports the initiative of the OIC Secretary-General to open six OIC regional offices.
For the OIC to be successful in the international arena, many of its member states need to find solutions to their problems of political and socio-economic development by raising living standards and creating stability. More success stories of this kind in the Islamic world will be the most effective way to strengthen the international presence of the organisation.
Erlan Idrissov is Foreign Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan.