COMCEC

Message of

H.E. DR. ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE OIC, AT THE OPENING OF THE EXPERTS GROUP MEETING FOR ACCELERATING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PLAN OF ACTION TO STRENGTHEN ECONOMIC AND COMMERCIAL COOPERATION AMONG THE OIC MEMEBR STATES

Istanbul, Turkey 6-7 May, 2001

Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.

It is indeed a matter of great satisfaction that this Experts Group Meeting for Accelerating the Implementation of the Plan of Action to Strengthen Economic and Commercial Cooperation among the OIC Member States is being held today. I attach great importance to this meeting bearing in mind the concern expressed by the Member States over the slow progress in the implementation of the Plan of Action and the urgency of finding ways and means of accelerating the process of implementation.

I would like, first of all, to seize this opportunity to express our deep sense of gratitude and appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Turkey for hosting this meeting and for the generous hospitality and warm welcome extended to the delegates. I would like to recall in this connection with appreciation the continued and active support, which has always been extended by the Government of the Republic of Turkey, to the activities of OIC in general and those of the COMCEC in particular.

Let me also express our profound thanks to H.E. Mr. Ahmet Necdet SEZER, President of the Republic of Turkey and the Chairman of COMCEC, for the wisdom and sagacity with which he has been guiding the work of COMCEC.

Despite the adoption of the Plan of Action to Strengthen Economic and Commercial Cooperation among the OIC Member States as early as 1981 with a view to lay down the foundation for mutual cooperation. The implementation of the Plan actually began several years after its revision in 1994, in the light of changes in the global political and economic environment. However, the progress in the implementation of the Plan has so far, been very slow. Only three sectoral expert group meetings took place in three priority areas, namely money, finance and capital flows (Istanbul, 1-3 September 1997), foreign trade facilitation of OIC Member States (Karachi, 24-25 October, 1997) and technological and technical cooperation (Istanbul 6-8 May, 1998). Even in the case of these experts group meetings, the required follow-up actions in terms of forming project committees on project proposals emanating from these expert group meetings have not yet been undertaken.

There is an urgent need to achieve all-round progress in the process of implementation of the Plan of Action. It is imperative therefore, that sectoral experts group meetings in respect of all the ten priority areas be held expeditiously as required under the Follow-up and Implementation Mechanism of the Plan of Action. Successive Islamic Summits and Islamic Conferences of Foreign Ministers have been renewing calls on the Member States to host such expert group meetings. We need to delve into the reason for the evident less-than-expected response at the practical level from the Member States. It is expected that this meeting will try to locate the difficulties and shortcomings and come up with proposals on remedial measures.

I would like to recall in this connection that in considering this matter the COMCEC Follow-up Committee at its 16th Meeting held on 9-11 May, 2000, made a number of recommendations, the details of which are in the Background Report prepared by the OIC General Secretariat for this meeting (Document: COMCEC/EGM-IPA/2001). The Background Report also provides other relevant information on the subject including some useful observations and suggestions drawn from the experience gained so far. I hope the meeting will take these into account.

I would also like to express my satisfaction over the useful intellectual contributions made in the other documents submitted by OIC institutions for consideration of this meeting under the various agenda items, namely the Islamic Development Bank, the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Islamic Shipowners’ Association, Statistical Economic and Social Research and Training Centre for Islamic Countries, and the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade. I also commend the efforts of those OIC institutions that acted as the focal point for the individual agenda items in the preparation of the documents. Our thanks should also go to the COMCEC Coordination Office for undertaking the necessary preparatory works, including a draft agenda for the meeting, which was finalized at the consultative meeting organized by the OIC General Secretariat on 11 February, 2001 in Jeddah. I thank the COMCEC Coordination Office and the OIC institutions for cooperating with the General Secretariat in all these matters.

As you can see, the draft agenda puts particular emphasis on three aspects: promotion of intra-OIC trade, involvement of the private sector, and speeding up the flow of information. The significance of these aspects in accelerating the implementation of the Plan of Action should be self-evident in the present context of globalisation and liberalization. Promotion of trade has all along been a key element in the efforts to expand intra-OIC cooperation, although the existing pattern of intra-OIC trade leaves much to be desired as it entailed only a fraction of the combined global trade of the OIC countries. Trade being the engine of growth, promotion of intra-OIC trade must remain a central feature in the implementation of the Plan of Action. As you recall, it has been recognized during the revision of the Plan of Action in 1994 that the private sector should play a key role in the process of implementation. I believe the private sector should indeed take a lead role in the process of implementation of the Plan of Action. As for the third aspect, in this age of information, the importance of intra-OIC flow of information hardly needs any elaboration.

I am confident that this meeting will not only deliberate upon these issues, but also go into other relevant issues. What is most important is to come up with practical recommendations based on a comprehensive consideration of the issues involved.

Before concluding, I would like to stress that the implementation of the Plan of Action depends in a large measure on the political will of the Member States. Such an expression of political will is implicit in the concern repeatedly expressed by the Member States at the recent Islamic Summits and the Islamic Conferences of Foreign Ministers. This needs to be translated into practical initiatives from the Member States in implementing the Plan of Action. I hope this meeting will come up with useful recommendations that can be acted upon by the Member States.

I wish the meeting all success.

Wassalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.