REPORT OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL
“THE PROBLEM OF REFUGEES IN THE MUSliM WORLD”
TO THE TWENTY-SIXTH SESSION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE OF FOREIGN MINISTERS
OUAGADOUGOU – BURKINA FASO, 28 JUNE – 1 JULY 1999
The problem of refugees and displaced persons figures prominently among issues of international concern, not only because of its humanitarian significance, but also because of its far-reaching implications for regional and global peace and stability.
2. This problem has significantly increased over the last few years and now seriously affects several Islamic countries and peoples. The number of refugees across the world today is estimated to exceed the figure of 19.2 million most of which are Muslims or residents in Islamic countries.
3. The principal causes for refugee outflow can be attributed to foreign intervention, occupation and hegemony, racial discrimination, regional conflicts, political instability and civil strife. In addition, economic causes such as drought, famine, shortage of food resources, world economic imbalances and widespread unemployment have also exacerbated the situation.
4. The refugee question has become a recurrent phenomenon in Africa which, sadly enough, has the largest number of refugees in the world. Out of 19.2 million refugees in the world, Africa accounts for 7 million and nearly 17 million displaced persons.
5. The root causes of this phenomenon lie in: conflicts, violations of human rights, intolerance, natural calamities and inadequate or lack of economic resources.
6. The refugee question is a matter of serious concern for the OAU. In October 1986 the latter adopted the African Charter of Human Rights and urged its Member States to join the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, its 1967 Protocol as well as the 1969 OAU Convention governing the issues specifically relating to refugee problems in Africa.
7. The Twentieth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers by its Resolution No.31/20-P expressed its deep concern at the persistent plight of millions of refugees in many parts of the world, most of whom are members of the Islamic community. It noted with deep concern the declining levels of the international assistance extended to the host countries for refugees and called upon the Member States to cooperate with the UNHCR and to secure additional resources to alleviate the suffering of those refugees in the Islamic countries.
8. In accordance with this and previous resolutions, the Organization of the Islamic Conference has sought to promote cooperation, coordination and exchange of information with specialized international organizations, in particular the UNHCR. The Organization has, in spite of the paucity of its financial resources, provided some assistance to the refugees through the Islamic Solidarity Fund whose total contributions since 1976 in this respect have exceeded 27 million dollars. Similarly, the Islamic Development Bank is also extending considerable assistance to refugees. The OIC, it may be recalled, is cooperating with the IDB with respect to the refugee problem and particularly so with regard to the issue of refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia and Afghanistan.
9. Several OIC delegations have visited some countries of asylum which have also been severely affected by the refugee influx. The OIC is also cooperating and coordinating its activities in the field of humanitarian relief and assistance with those of International Islamic Relief Organization.
10. In the framework of continued coordination and cooperation between the OIC and the Office of the U.N.High Commissioner for Refugees, the Secretary General received in January 1993 the High Commissioner for Refugees Mrs. Sadako Ogata at the OIC Headquarters in Jeddah. During the meeting ways and means to improve cooperation between the two organizations were discussed. The OIC Permanent Mission in Geneva was mandated to maintain constant liaison with the UNHCR. In February 1994, the Secretary General had another useful meeting with Mrs. Ogata in Geneva.
11. The Nineteenth Session of the Islamic Commission for Economic, Cultural and Social Affairs, which met in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the month of June 1995, expressed its deep concern at the persistent plight of millions of refugees in different parts of the world. The Commission also expressed concern over the diminishing levels of international assistance extended to countries hosting refugees. It recommended that Member States supply to the General Secretariat a statistical statement on the assistance provided by them for refugees either directly to the host countries or to the UNHCR and other humanitarian institutions and report on the refugees’ situation and on initial aid extended to refugees.
12. The Eighth Islamic Summit Conference held in Tehran in December 1997, and Twenty-fifth ICFM which held in Doha, State of Qatar, stressed the importance of all the relevant OIC resolutions. In resolution 36/8-P (IS), it expressed its appreciation to Member States, donor countries, the Office of the UNHCR, U.N. Specialized Agencies and other humanitarian organizations for the valuable assistance they extend to refugees in the Islamic countries. It also expressed deep appreciation to the host countries for the generous support they give the refugees despite their critical economic situation and the presence of large numbers of displaced persons on their territory. It reiterated its deep concern over the far-reaching consequences of the presence of millions of refugees in the Islamic countries especially those relating to their security and stability as well as to their infrastructure, which adversely affect their economic and social development.
13. The Secretary General is of the view that the capacity of the OIC system to respond to humanitarian exigencies of the refuge problem should be enhanced by providing adequate resources to the Islamic Solidarity Fund and instituting closer interaction between OIC and IDB on the one hand and the UNHCR on the other. These matters were the subject of discussions and an exchange of views at the meeting held between the Secretary General and the UNHCR Mrs. Sadako Ogata in Geneva in April 1997.
14. The Secretary General submits this Report to the Twenty-sixth Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers for consideration and appropriate decision.