Shah Mahmood Qureshi
The writer is the Foreign Minister of Pakistan
Fifty-three years ago, Muslim countries from Asia and Africa established the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to help realize Palestinian rights and freedom. Later renamed as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the OIC has since evolved into the second largest international organization after the United Nations, representing 57 countries and nearly 2 billion people from four continents.
United by faith and shared civilizational and cultural heritage, the OIC is an important global stakeholder on political, social, and economic issues of our time. As a founding member, Pakistan has always demonstrated its strong support for the OIC objectives, ideals and aspirations.
From hosting OIC summits and ministerial meetings to reforming and strengthening of its institutions, from mobilizing political support to catalyzing humanitarian assistance, Pakistan has been a proud and leading partner in OIC’s journey that spans more than half a century now.
Pakistan is once again honored to host the 48th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) on 22-23 March 2022. In line with the guiding principle enshrined in Pakistan’s own Constitution, the over-arching goal of the Islamabad Conference will be “to preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic unity”.
Since the founding days of the OIC, the Muslim countries have come a long way in harnessing their immense human potential and natural resources. The OIC institutions have played an important support role in these advancements.
Yet, much more needs to be done to meet the development aspirations of our people in a fast-changing world. Together, the OIC countries represent nearly a quarter of the world population but contribute just over 8% to global GDP.
From the West African coasts to East Asia, our countries possess rich natural resources and human talent; dynamic start-ups, entrepreneurs, and scientists; and huge untapped opportunities for trade through the land, sea, and digital connectivity.
Our geographic contiguity represents both opportunities and challenges. The contemporary global conversations from geopolitics and security to the economy, climate change, public health, and SDGs are as relevant to us as any other grouping or country.
Today, the bulk of the displaced persons — refugees and migrants seeking better opportunities, originate from Muslim countries. Many of these are young people with skills and education. At the same time, the OIC countries, as exemplified by Pakistan, are also the largest and most generous hosts to refugees and people displaced by conflict.
The Islamabad meeting will take place in the backdrop of the devastating social and economic impacts of Covid-19. Many OIC member states have borne the brunt of this pandemic. While the global average GDP per capita in 2020 declined by 4.2 percent, the average GDP per capita of OIC member states dropped by 7.4 percent. At the individual country level, 39 OIC member states recorded a negative growth rate in 2020.
As the global discourse on recovery from the pandemic gains momentum, the OIC ministerial meeting will provide a platform to assess its impacts and catalyze support for enhanced development finance, vaccine equity, and a more equitable global trading, financial, and taxation order.
Galvanizing economic, financial, technological, scientific, and humanitarian partnerships between and among our countries would be a key focus of the 48th CFM in Islamabad.
The OIC countries have been ardent supporters of respect for international legality, norms, and principles, as enshrined in the OIC and UN charters. Yet, many in the Muslim world have been victims of the inconsistent application of these norms and principles.
Among others, the people of Palestine and Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) have, for decades, braved illegal occupation, injustice, and grave violations of human rights. Both have been denied their inalienable right to self-determination to determine their own destiny.
The Islamabad Conference, I am sure, will reiterate OIC’s unambiguous and resolute support for the just struggles of Palestinians and Kashmiris in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions. The meeting will also address other situations where Muslim populations are faced with the devastating effects of conflicts and humanitarian emergencies.
In Afghanistan, the people are confronted by the twin challenges of economic collapse and humanitarian crisis. In December 2021, Pakistan hosted an Extraordinary Session of OIC Foreign Ministers to help raise international awareness and galvanize global response. The recent developments in Europe must not divert the international community’s attention from Afghanistan and dilute support for the Afghan people.
Discrimination and violence against people of the Islamic faith have surged in many parts of the world, ranging from the horrific attacks on the mosques in Christchurch in 2019 to the ongoing stigmatization and ‘othering’ of Muslims, including women and girls. We are witnessing the worst form of Islamophobia in our immediate neighborhood. The world must come together to effectively counter this phenomenon.
I am heartened that as a result of passionate advocacy by Prime Minister Imran Khan and efforts undertaken by Pakistan and other partners through the platform of OIC, the UN General Assembly has unanimously adopted a landmark resolution to proclaim 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. This reflects the sentiments of Muslims all over the world.
The OIC was founded on the noble Islamic values of peace, compassion, tolerance, justice, and human dignity. These values provide enduring foundations to foster Islamic fraternity and cooperation that can withstand the tests of all times.
The Islamabad meeting will review and reflect on the Muslim Ummah’s common challenges. Working together with our OIC friends, it would be our endeavor to shape unified and timely responses to those challenges and harness close cooperation and collective action for our shared benefit.
I look forward to welcoming our brothers and sisters, who would also be our honored guests at the Pakistan Day Parade as part of celebrations of 75 years of our independence. Partnering for Unity, Justice, and Development, we are determined to forge ahead to promote the best interests of the Ummah.