H.E. DR. ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE (OIC), AT THE 25TH SESSION OF THE ISLAMIC COMMISSION FOR ECONOMIC, CULTURAL AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS
JEDDAH, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Bism Allah Arrahman Arrahim
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatuh,
Today, I address you, as an elite of the Islamic world specialized in cultural, economic, and social affairs, at a time when conditions are extremely critical and at this new historical juncture in which the Islamic world is facing a campaign of distortion, false accusations, and multifarious threats directed by certain quarters which are taking advantage of the current international situation today to settle old scores and grudges against our religion, beliefs, culture, and civilization.
In this campaign, the economic and cultural dimensions assume extreme importance, particularly in the light of current international conditions, which precedes and may overshadow the political role. Therefore, the proceedings of your Islamic Commission come at an opportune moment, albeit special and difficult. It is a time when we must rise to meet the challenges ahead and, armed with enlightened, insightful, and true vision as well as with influential and effective means, defend ourselves against the campaign designed to alienate us from our Islamic identity and keep our capabilities and destinies shackled to foreign diktats. It is also a time when we must call ourselves to account over any slackening or relaxation of our efforts in some fundamental and strategic areas that are essential to cooperation, interdependence, and solidarity among the Member States and without which the progress, prosperity, dignity, and inviolability we seek for our Ummah and peoples cannot be reached.
My meeting with you today at the start of proceedings of the Islamic Commission for Economic, Cultural, and Social Affairs is an important occasion as you will be deliberating on key Islamic issues of the day about which the people of the Islamic world, in various countries, raise many questions relating to their future and to the conspiracies and disinformation campaigns being organized against them, distorting the teachings of their religion, defaming their faith, and promoting hate campaigns against them that are detrimental to them and to their interests around the world; and making them the target of suspicion, mistrust, and questioning for the simple reason that they belong to this religion. These campaigns started more than a decade ago in a covert manner, and many Muslim leaders called for measures to address the situation by "polishing up the image of Islam in the West". However, no action was taken, and instead a distorted image of Islam came to take root in the minds of Westerners and others that was exacerbated by the events of the recent months until we reached a crisis-point unlike any faced by the Islamic world for a very long time. Such an unprecedented turn of events increases our burdens and multiplies our responsibilities in this regard.
As you are the elite and experts of the Islamic world in this field, and as the main responsibility in refuting these campaigns which seek to undermine us all falls to you, let me say to you that it is high time to place this issue at the top of our priorities and I appeal to you to avert this danger by pondering deeply the gravity of the threat and undertaking joint, collective action to redress the situation and rebut the distortions and the lies.
Suffice it to note the injustice, oppression, and persecution befalling our brothers in Palestine without anyone rising to their defense and the suffering of others in Kashmir and elsewhere to make us realize the heavy burden that we all have to shoulder.
In order to discharge our duty, we have to put our own house in order in the first place, and then to turn to the outside danger, as an interdependent solid and unified entity. There are many items which feature on your agenda that are worthy of your consideration, implementation, and follow-up in a renewed spirit of determination and away from simplistic solutions and procrastination.
As you are the officials in charge of the cultural and economic sectors in your governments, I hope that you will be the greatest defenders of the resolutions you adopt with the competent authorities of your respective countries so that they can be implemented as speedily as possible and in order to mobilize the necessary funds for a collective implementation of those resolutions in a way that allows us all to contribute to meeting the momentous challenges ahead.
At the cultural level, there is the Cultural Strategy of the Islamic World and its related implementation Plan of Action to consider, and there is also the Consultative Ministerial Council entrusted with considering the cultural projects submitted by the Member States. The implementation of the strategy and its programs is a vital and imperative matter, particularly under these critical conditions in which our very culture is in jeopardy. Yet that implementation hinges on the availability of the required financial resources as we all realize that the lack of such resources will delay the execution of the projects and so I urge you to accord this aspect the necessary priority so that a radical solution can be found, particularly from the financial perspective.
We have extensively discussed the phenomenon of globalization brought about by the rapid advances in technology and information. Major economic interests in the West were quick to jump on the bandwagon of that globalization, which has generated an inexorable current, bringing with it economic and cultural hegemony over the peoples of the whole world. Such hegemony, not only jeopardizes the cultural identity of all nations, including the Islamic Ummah, but also wreaks adverse economic effects on the capabilities of these peoples as I will explain later.
Given this new and dangerous reality, we have called upon each other to face this situation, yet the mechanisms for studying the possible advantages, as well as its proven negative impacts and modalities for dealing with them, are still awaiting viable action. Such an attitude embodies manifold, long-term dangers for our identity, culture, and civilization, which require us to deploy our resources with determination and faith to immediately address this reality.
This issue is linked with the idea of Dialogue among Civilizations pioneered by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, under the initiative of H.E. Seyed Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Eighth Islamic Summit. This idea has won support throughout the international community as the United Nations designated last year as the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations and at the end of that year, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution whose preamble stressed the idea that civilization is not the individual prerogative or monopoly of superpowers, that a common human nature unites all civilizations, and that civilizational achievements constitute a collective heritage of humankind. The preamble also proclaimed that what should be done is to promote the dissemination of the culture of peace and dialogue among civilizations and that belief in dialogue increases awareness of common values to all humanity.
Last year, acting on your commission, ISESCO organized two seminars. The first was held in Rabat in July 2001 and addressed the issue of "Dialogue among Civilizations in a Changing World". The second was held in Tunisia in November 2001 under the title "Dialogue among Civilizations: Theory and Application". We are now preparing to publish a white book including all documents that have addressed this issue in collaboration with the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).
The issue of women and their role in the development of Muslim society has had a sizeable share in the Organization’s activities. In fact, the various OIC conferences called for enhancing women’s role and prestige both in the family and at the level of economic, cultural and social activities. They also launched an appeal to remove the obstacles standing in the way of the advancement and education of women and to stand in the face of those obsolete intellectual concepts that impede women’s emancipation and have nothing to do with Islam. Furthermore, the OIC General Secretariat plays the role of coordinator among member states with a view to adopting a unified stance against any destructive and distorting currents inconsistent with the tenets of our religion – Islam, our values and our civilization.
Similarly, the status of children is one of the major and constant preoccupations of the OIC, especially as they constitute a high percentage of our societies. Within this framework, a document was prepared: "The Declaration of the Rights of the Child in Islam," along with the preparatory papers for the First (1st) Islamic Conference of the Ministers in Charge of Children and Social Affairs, in cooperation with experts from member states as well as competent Islamic and international bodies. All that remains is to complete the necessary contacts with some member states to determine the conference’s date and venue.
The Welfare and Protection of Palestinian Children stand at the top of the priorities that imperatively call for our attention, owing to what they endure in terms of murder, oppression and psychological devastation at the hands of the Israeli occupation authorities. The killing of children by Israeli snipers has been conclusively established. Likewise, reports from Human Rights Organizations have established again that it was to all evidence the premeditated killing of children, which has had a ravaging effect on civilians. There is a need for action to ensure international protection for them or create a kind of international supervision in their territories. Meanwhile, contacts are underway to prepare for the World Children’s Conference. We have also set out preparing the draft International Convention on the Rights of the Child in Islam, as the relevant meeting of experts, held at OIC headquarters in Jeddah, already drafted the convention’s preamble.
Another issue of interest to most OIC Member States is Youth, given its direct bearing on the future of our Islamic society. For this reason, the resolutions and decisions adopted by the various Islamic conferences were adamant in affirming and reaffirming the role that this section of society ought to play as well as the necessity of adopting and applying an overall policy, when it comes to youth, in the fields of education and training, in line with the requirements of our era and to catch up with the achievements of modern civilization insofar as technological advances are concerned. In implementation of those decisions, the OIC General Secretariat, in cooperation with the Organization’s specialized organs and Intergovernmental Experts from Member States, drew-up a research paper on the problems facing youths in the social frame. The paper comprises proposed solutions to those problems to be submitted to the First Conference of Ministers of Youth and Sports which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia plans to host soon.
The OIC General Secretariat has paid a special attention to the two Islamic universities – one in Niger and one in Uganda – owing to the part they are called upon to play in propagating Islam and its culture in their respective geographic environment. Effective and new methods are being applied in their management to raise their operating capacity, optimize the use of resources and avoid overspending. It is a cause of satisfaction to mention that after a long wait, a girls’ college has been opened at the Islamic University in Niger, the current academic year. As for the Islamic University in Uganda, an invitation was sent to eminent Saudi dignitaries to grace with their presence the opening of King Fahd Plaza center next March. It is, as you know, a commercial center that has been built with a generous financial donation from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz, with the intention that it be registered as a Waqf (endowment or trust-fund) in the name of the Islamic Solidarity Fund (ISF). That waqf’s proceeds are designed to be spent on the interests of the Islamic University in Uganda.
For many years now, the General Secretariat has been exerting strenuous efforts with the help of Islamic dignitaries interested in joint Islamic action to establish a Waqf whose returns guarantee a stable income for the two universities mentioned. The commercial center (King Fahd Plaza) is a major step in that direction realizing the policy of the OIC to secure stable endowments and financial resources for the two universities.
In this context, Kuwait has gracefully established a Waqf for the two Islamic Universities of Uganda and Niger whose proceeds will be used for their administration and to strengthen their budgets.
The Islamic Solidarity Fund also makes a major contribution to the budgets of the two universities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On the economic scene, the momentum of joint Islamic action is not comforting at all. The OIC Plan of Action to Strengthen Economic and Commercial Cooperation among the Member States which remains the mainstay in this respect is making very slow progress and gives reason for concern. The last session of COMCEC approved these recommendations stressing their importance. I believe this matter deserves primary attention of the Member States. This Commission may like to take the opportunity of calling upon the Member States to undertake the necessary steps in line with the directives of COMCEC.
Quite regrettably, the same scenario is witnessed with regard to processes impacting different areas of joint Islamic action reflected in a wide ranging of agreements and statutes that have been finalized under the OIC’s umbrella and which are yet to be signed or ratified by many Member States. In this connection, allow me to reiterate once more the overriding priority of these agreements and statutes as fundamental building blocks for the Member States’ economic integration. I feel it my obligation here again to appeal to you to urge your states authorities to provide these signatures and ratifications.
As for the issue of the Islamic Common Market, the OIC has, ever since the Tehran Summit in December 1997, been persistently calling for the establishment of the necessary infrastructure for such a market, as the matter continues to be in need of further study and coordination.
The importance of such an Islamic Common Market becomes all the more evident as we take note of the tendency among many international groupings across the world today, to form common markets for the preservation of their rights and their protection against the adverse effects of globalization.
The critical importance of this matter was duly emphasized by the Islamic Summit in Doha and the last ICFM in Bamako as well as by the seminar that was held in Tehran in September, 2000 as well as an expert group meeting in Doha in October 2000. The issue gains further urgency against the background of the new international circumstances experienced by the Islamic world and the challenges facing it in the aftermath of the events of last September. An international conference will also be organized this year by the University of Qatar in Doha in cooperation with the OIC General Secretariat. I believe these studies will provide the necessary intellectual foundation for our avowed aim of creating an Islamic Common Market.
I would like to take this opportunity to express our profound appreciation for the commendable role played by the IDB in the economic development of the Member States. You would recall that the Ninth Islamic Summit in Doha authorized the Board of Governors of IDB to go for a substantial increase in its authorized and subscribed capital in recognition of IDB’s increasing range of activities. I am pleased to note that the Board at its last meeting held in Algiers in October last year took the necessary steps in line with the directives of the Summit. I would appeal to the Member States for continued support to the IDB in the task of expanding its appreciable activities in the days to come.
On the other hand the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization which was held in Doha last November adopted a wide-ranging agenda for the coming fresh negotiations for the introduction of reform in the world trade environment. It is my belief that our Member States need to coordinate their stand in this respect, just as those states that have not yet joined the WTO, are urged to do so promptly.
Lastly, statistics have demonstrated that the world economy has confirmed the economic recession last year in the industrialized states. But it also showed that the developing states’ economy was better off and did contribute to the consolidation of world development. Yet the Member States in our Organization have unfortunately not been in a position to benefit from this positive trend at the level of the developing countries, and their growth rate remained below that of other developing states. This is what prompts me to reiterate what I pointed out earlier, with reference to the Member States sore need to demonstrate greater interest, cooperation and solidarity within the framework of economic joint Islamic action, given the benefits it may bear for all and the higher momentum of economic and social development that may accrue these from. For our peoples, as well as the better standing it will afford us among the international community of states and groups and the increased viability and loftiness of standing our Ummah would achieve.
In closing, I wish to extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz and to Crown Prince H.R.H. Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz as well as to sagacious government of Saudi Arabia for the Kingdom’s consistent support to the OIC General Secretariat and all its institutions.
Allah Says: "Do as you will, Allah will behold your works and so will His Apostle and the faithful".
Wassalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh