Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 27 May 2019

The OIC provides a model of co-operation and self-determination for the Islamic world

Fifty-six member states convened in Abu Dhabi for two days of constructive dialogue and and decision making

A diverse range of national flags at the OIC's ministerial meeting. Chris Whiteoak/The National
A diverse range of national flags at the OIC's ministerial meeting. Chris Whiteoak/The National

On the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, the foreign ministers of 56 member states – collectively representing a quarter of the world’s population – congregated in Abu Dhabi. Under the geometric domes of Emirates Palace, a frank and constructive dialogue on the state of the Islamic world unfolded. The UAE’s chairmanship and hosting of the OIC summit produced an impressive event, while the warmth with which foreign ministers from three continents greeted Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, was testament to the significance of the UAE on the world stage. It is fitting that this auspicious occasion should be held in the UAE, a beacon of tolerance and stability in a region riven by conflict – and a wider world beset by populist division.

Given the diversity of member states – the bloc includes Albania, Mali and Indonesia – it is important to regularly reaffirm the commitment to co-operation in the Islamic world. But this meeting of the OIC was about far more. A total of 131 draft resolutions were discussed, comprising matters related to economic, humanitarian, scientific and technological matters, alongside the African war on terrorism and rising Islamophobia across the globe. Opening the conference, Sheikh Abdullah called on Iran – itself an OIC member – to review its policies and take a line of non-interference in the affairs of states in order to “stop the spread of chaos and sectarianism”. It reaffirmed the prevailing view in this region that no country has done more to destabilise the Middle East than Iran. The OIC is well placed to exert pressure on Tehran to change its ways. The same can be said of Israel, whose occupation of Palestine is one of the Islamic world’s biggest challenges.

Underpinning all of this is a belief that the Islamic world must take charge of its own fate, and solve its own problems. It was that mindset that saw the UAE open the OIC conference this weekend with a call for the body to take a bigger role in fostering world peace. This region is still fraught with violent conflict and division. Wars rumble on in Syria and Yemen, while sluggish reconstruction efforts continue in Iraq. Iran and its proxies – from the Houthi rebels to Hezbollah – are fanning the flames of conflict. Much must be done, and given the priorities of world powers, it must originate in this region. The OIC is an appropriate vehicle to find those solutions.

Updated: March 2, 2019 06:54 PM

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