H.E. Dr. ABDELOUAHED BELKZIZ the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the Twenty-Fourth Session of the Islamic Commission for Economic, Cultural and Social Affairs (ICECS)
Jeddah, 10 February 2001
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,
Allow me, as this is my first meeting with you, to extend to you a warm welcome at the opening of the proceedings of the 24th session of the Islamic Commission for Economic, Cultural and Social Affairs (ICECS). I wish all of you who braved the difficulties of travel to participate in this meeting a pleasant stay in this hospitable country steeped in tradition.
This 24th ICECS Session takes place at a time when the blessed Intifada (uprising) is proudly advancing, now in its 5th month towards its noble objectives, despite the great sacrifices which the valiant Palestinian people are making daily in terms of the blood of their martyrs and despite the harsh and brutal oppression they are facing at the hands of the Israeli military machine.
Important issues of the current session’s Agenda cover the economic, trade and other fields as well as cultural and social cooperation.
Allow me to invite your kind attention to some points I would like to highlight while affirming, first of all, that the General Secretariat of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is constantly seeking to set the stage for the implementation of the resolutions and recommendations of the Islamic summits, foreign ministerial conferences and other OIC organs and committees.
On the economic plane, I would like to recall that the data provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicate a world economic growth of 4.2 percent in 2000 as against 2.5% in 1998. Nevertheless, the majority of developing countries, including the OIC member states, failed, as a whole, to benefit from such growth. This fact points to the necessity of rectifying such a flaw undoubtedly caused by the fierce competition brought about by the "globalization" phenomenon especially in the economic and commercial fields whose intensity was heightened by the marked instability of the international financial markets.
Such a state of affairs is indicative of the pressing necessity to hasten to bolster cooperation and coordination among our states, particularly by broadening the scope of intra-Islamic trade as provided for in the Plan of Action to Strengthen Economic and Commercial Cooperation Among OIC Member States whose implementation delay is a source of preoccupation and concern to all of us. We hope that the Standing Committee on Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC) will pursue its practical plans to follow up the steps conducive to this end, particularly the necessity to take action to create an Islamic Common Market by setting out, as early as possible, to lay the infrastructure for this ambitious project.
In the cultural sphere, the various OIC organs are devoting a great deal of attention to the Cultural Strategy for the Islamic World and its Plan of Action, especially after its adoption by the 2nd Islamic Conference of Ministers of Culture (ICMC) which entrusted the Islamic States Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) with following up its implementation, given ISESCO’s knowledge of the circumstances prevalent in each member state. A Consultative Council of member states was also set up to consider the cultural projects submitted by the member states and their feasibility. At its first session, held in October, 2000, the Council adopted a set of criteria and guidelines to be followed in the projects’ preparations. During the same session, it adopted a number of projects found to be in line with those criteria and guidelines while others were referred back to their sponsor states to be reformulated according to those criteria. But, as is always the case, the matter is now contingent upon the procurement of the necessary financial resources. For this reason, the council asked that the special account for implementing the Strategy be boosted and that national funds be set up for the purpose.
The phenomenon of "globalization," which is yet another phase of the spectacular scientific and technological advance of human civilization at the end of the Twentieth century, as a result of the Informatics Revolution that turned planet earth into a global village wherein the flow of information and trade between nations and continents is never interrupted, which has had a quick effect in driving the world towards the so-called New World Order, an order which one party is trying to dominate with a view to imposing its cultural, economic and military vantage point with the backing of its giant specialist companies. Owing to the grave cultural aspects inherent in globalization, the General Secretariat proposed a new item to be incorporated in the Agenda to address the various aspects of globalization’s cultural effects and consider ways and means to derive benefit from the positive ones while averting the negative sides.
The General Secretariat sponsored the idea initiated by H.E. Mr. Seyed Mohamed Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Chairman of the Eighth Islamic Summit Conference and promoted within Islamic and international public opinion, of engaging in a well targeted and constructive inter-civilizational dialogue based on the principles that are rooted in the teachings and culture of Islam, the principles of respecting human dignity, promoting equality among humans, believing in cultural diversity and rejecting any hegemony or ascendancy of any specific culture over others. This idea met with extensive worldwide acclaim, which was manifested in the United nations deciding to proclaim the year 2001, as "The Year for Dialogue Among Civilizations". Accordingly the General Secretariat established a 10-member committee entrusted to follow-up the issue with the United Nations on the basis of the resolution adopted by the 27th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM), held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You will find in the set of documents in your hands a summary of the two documents adopted on Dialogue Among Civilizations: the First titled "The Universal Declaration on Dialogue Among Civilizations," relating to the broad lines of the objectives, principles; fields and tools of the said Dialogue as well as participants therein; and the Second about "The Executive Work Program for Dialogue Among Civilizations." It details the components found in the universal document on the Dialogue along with the mechanisms and methods of execution in the various domains, especially the cultural, educational and information spheres.
The issue of women and their role in the development of our Islamic society has had a sizeable share of the Organization’s activities. In fact, many of the OIC’s various conferences called for enhancing the women’s status both within the family and in the economic, cultural and social activities and for removing all the hindrances to their advancement, education and training, while opposing the obsolete ideas and mentalities that have no connection whatsoever with Islam. In the same vein, the General Secretariat is constantly assuming the role of coordinator among member states in aligning their stances against those destructive and distorted trends which are incongruent with the principles and values of our Islamic religion, our value system and our culture.
Similarly, the status of children, who represent a significant segment in Muslim society, is one of the major perennial preoccupations of the General Secretariat particularly regarding their welfare and protection. In this framework, a document titled "Declaration on Children’s Rights in Islam" as well as the preparatory documents for the 1st Conference of Ministers in Charge of Child and Social Affairs have been drafted with the help of experts from member states and relevant Islamic and international bodies.
The issue of youth is at the forefront of those of interest to the majority of OIC member states, owing to its direct bearing on the future of our Muslim societies. Hence the resolutions and decisions adopted by the various Islamic conferences which have all made a point of underscoring the role that must be assumed by this section of society and the necessity of applying a comprehensive policy towards it in the fields of education and training to enable it to adapt to the contemporary needs and the advances made, on the technological plane, by contemporary civilization. In implementation of those decisions, the General Secretariat, in cooperation with the competent OIC bodies and governmental experts from member states drew up a research paper on the problems faced by youth in the social system and the proposed solutions thereon for onward submission to the 1st Islamic Conference of Ministers of Youth and Sports to be hosted, soon, by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The two Islamic universities of Niger and Uganda have been the object of special care on the part of the [OIC] General Secretariat in view of the prominent role played by those great academic institutions in propagating Islam and its culture in the region. New effective approaches have been introduced in them with a view to secure a more efficient management and optimize the use of their resources while curbing extravagance. For its part, the Islamic Solidarity Fund (ISF) has always extended meaningful contributions to the two universities’ budgets.
For years, now, the OIC General Secretariat has been exerting substantial efforts, with the participation of prominent Islamic figures known for their interest in joint Islamic action, to create a Waqf (trust-fund) whose proceeds would ensure a steady revenue to the two universities. In this context, the commercial center Fahd Plaza, built in Kampala, at the expense of the Custodian of the Two Holy Harams, King Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz, Sovereign of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represents a major step towards the embodiment of the OIC’s policy aimed at providing Waqfs and steady financial resources in favor of the two universities in question in order to protect them from any political and economic fluctuations that may emerge in their environment.
Along the same line, the State of Kuwait graciously set up a waqf in favor of the two Islamic universities in Niger and Uganda whose proceeds will be used for running them and reinforcing their budgets, which still rely on donations from charitable foundations and ISF contributions.
Within its resources, the General Secretariat tries to promote cooperation in the field of Science and Technology, where the Islamic Ummah may rise to the level of technology producer rather than mere consumer.
I have no doubt whatsoever that you will be dedicating yourselves to the consideration of all these issues that I have mentioned as well as the other issues on the Agenda in the modern spirit of openness so as to rise to the challenges of this age and thus be able to obtain positive results that allow us to meet the demands of this new era in the history of human evolution generated by the information revolution and the phenomenon of globalization with its pros and cons.
Our attitude also is bound to help us embark on the road of progress, restructuring and rehabilitation to enhance performance as is the urgent and legitimate demand of Islamic public opinion and Islamic heads of State. The words of Mr. Mahatir bin Mohamed, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, still fresh in our minds as he addressed a few months ago in Kuala Lumpur during the opening of the proceedings of our latest ICFM session when he urged us to raise the OIC level of performance, and to restructure and modernize it so that it may rise to its role in the service of the joint Islamic action in a modern, efficient and effective way.
In this regard, we should also be inspired with the spirit of the speech delivered at the International Davos Forum in Switzerland a few weeks ago by His Highness, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa A Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar and Chairman of the Ninth Islamic Summit, which addressed the issue of globalization and the position of Islam thereon with an open mind and modern spirit looking forward to taking advantage of everything that may move us forward on the road of progress within the framework of respecting our tolerant Islamic religion, which is compatible with all permissible developments since our religion was revealed as valid for all time and all places.
As we deem it necessary to meet all these legitimate and urgent demands of our leaders and the people of our Ummah – demands for which the time is now ripe if we deploy our best and unrelenting efforts through our proceedings, meetings and deliberations. Let us pray to Allah that He might guide us onto the rightful path for the prosperity, welfare and solidarity of the Islamic Ummah and that it might be able to positively influence the course of international events, defend its crucial causes, achieve prosperity and dignity for its people.
"Say: ‘Do as you will, Allah will behold your works and so will His Apostle and the faithful."
Wassalamu Alaykum Warahmatu Allah Wabarakatuh