When the Third Extraordinary Summit of the OIC was held in the holy city of Mecca (or Makkah) in December 2005, the organization’s Islamic leaders approved a pioneering Ten-Year Program of Action (TYPOA) to give the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims new hope for a brighter future.
For years it had been hotly deliberated whether the Organization of Islamic Conference (under its previous moniker) was fully able to realize its purpose as the true voice for the Muslim World as it struggled to cope with the complicated political and spiritual difficulties it faced.
Prior to the Mecca summit, the OIC itself had asserted: “The Muslim world is faced with grave political, socio-economic, cultural and scientific challenges with implications for its unity, peace, security and development.” Despite the 36 years that had passed since its inauguration, there still seemed a certain lack of structure and unity between the organization and its member states towards achieving their shared objectives and aspirations, and that decisive action was needed to be taken in order to revive the role of the Muslim “Ummah” (community).
Going forward, the key word would be “cooperation.” Conscious of the big challenges that lay ahead in the search for greater prosperity, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and King of Saudi Arabia, HM Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, invited the leading scholars and intellectuals of the Muslim world to meet in Mecca and put forward their visions and concepts for the OIC’s supposed renaissance.
Based on these recommendations, the TYPOA was established, sparking a new dawn for the organization and the Muslim world as a whole. Whilst the original creation of the OIC (in 1969) had owed mostly to the feeling for a need of greater solidarity on the basis of Islam, for more than three decades of its existence this idea had remained little more than a concept. With the implementation of the reform process that the TYPOA set out, this concept of solidarity was finally being put into action on the back of solid goals.
This newly determined direction towards greater cohesion was swiftly symbolized by changing the organization’s name – duly swapping the ‘C’ from ‘Conference’ to ‘Cooperation’. Indeed following the landmark Mecca summit in 2005, as well as the name change, the OIC has witnessed a complete paradigm shift towards making a comprehensive overhaul in addressing the real aspirations of the Muslim world.
Since its inception, the TYPOA has dynamically endorsed the “joint action” of OIC member states in the promotion of tolerance, moderation, modernization, as well as the enforcement of its extensive reforms in all spheres of activities including science and technology, education and trade enhancement.
Furthermore, the aim of the TYPOA has been to expansively incorporate “contemporary international core values” into the OIC system, for example, human rights, fundamental freedoms, equality, democracy, accountability and transparency (amongst others), “in order to bring the organization to a stature that would be at par with other similar institutions at international level capable of meeting the demands at present times.”
Eight years on from the Mecca summit, and with the TYPOA drawing nearer to an end, the OIC has made significant progress in most, if not all, of the areas it outlined in its blueprint of the future back in December 2005 (the on-going advancements of which are explored in the pages of this United World report). Major achievements include the establishment of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission, the Women’s Development Organization, the establishment of the Science, Technology and Innovation Organization, the forming of a unit for Peace, Security and Mediation, the acceleration of economic cooperation for humanitarian work and poverty alleviation, increased intra-OIC trade, and the quadrupling of the average spending of member states on research and development.
A major factor in the realization of such concrete progress is what many in the Muslim world now attribute to the appointment of the OIC’s current Secretary General, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu.
Not only was the Turkish diplomat the organization’s first ever democratically elected leader (a year prior to the Mecca summit), he then became heavily influential in drafting the strategic goals of the TYPOA, and has since led the execution of the programme in a tactful, open and charismatic style. Electing a Secretary General in this manner, and a character in the form of the well known international personality of Mr. İhsanoğlu, really instigated a turning point in the history of the OIC, “ushering a new and irreversible work philosophy that favoured reforms, efficiency and result oriented endeavours,” according to the organization.
Now, as the tenure of Mr. İhsanoğlu also comes to an end later this year (he’ll be replaced by the Saudi politician Iyad bin Amin Madani), for all the achievements of the OIC in the last eight years, the stark reality is that the Muslim world still faces a great number of challenges in the path towards real and lasting prosperity.
Perhaps it is symbolic of the daunting task the OIC has set itself, not only in uniting the Muslim world but also attempting to gain greater understanding and a closer relationship with the West, that the country chosen (back in 2008) to host the OIC chairmanship and hold the light meant to project the positive development of the organization over the next three years from 2013 – is Egypt.
Current developments in Egypt, not to mention Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Afghanistan and Somalia, are what continue to hamper the progress of Muslim countries, often leading to incidences of extremism or terrorism, the resulting negative image of Islam and, after that, unfair discrimination. That’s not to mention the strife of a number of OIC member states who today remain largely under developed, socially and economically.
Meanwhile, amidst all of the progress and the challenges, the OIC continues with its principal mission and ongoing reform process under the motto of “Solidarity in Action,” persistently striving for improvement in moderation and modernization. Above anything else, thanks to its many initiatives, it’s fair to say that the OIC is now being recognized as a global actor in international affairs, giving the Muslim world a voice that is finally being heard.