The OIC, the second largest intergovernmental organization after the UN, needs to make full use of its capacity and increase the effective cooperation between the member states
The 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) heads of government meeting, also known as the Islamic Summit, has concluded on a positive note. It promised to further increase cooperation among the OIC member countries, however, its history suggests otherwise.
The OIC, which was founded in 1969 with 25 members, now consists of 57 member states. While the OIC is the second largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations, its ineffectiveness in realizing its basic objectives has made it just as redundant as the U.N.
Although many people may argue that the OIC lacks cohesion and there are many contradictions within the organization, there are numerous instances where multilateral groupings have succeeded.
Many organizations have attained success despite having rival countries as members. NATO has both Turkey and Greece as members; now, the (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) SCO includes archrivals, India and Pakistan and the (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) ASEAN is a success story despite having membership of several rival countries.
Economic cooperation is vital to strengthening the OIC. With the nominal GDP of around $7 trillion, the member countries' share in world GDP is about 10 percent, while the population share is about 23 percent.
Furthermore, intra OIC trade reached $878 billion in 2015, a steep increase in a decade. Trade within the OIC today accounts for 20 percent of total international trade conducted by member states, up from 13 percent in 2000.
All is not pessimistic in the OIC; there was a time when no OIC member was on any international body. Now there are three countries that are members of the G20. Many OIC member countries are part of major multinational organizations around the world such as NATO, SCO and ASEAN.
There are organizations solely consisting of OIC member states such as (the Economic Cooperation Organization) ECO, (the Developing-8) D-8, (the Gulf Cooperation Council) GCC and Arab League. Experiences gained in these bodies will definitely help in strengthening the organization.
All the major groupings in the world are either economic or military in nature like the EU, ASEAN, NATO and SCO. Even the military alliances are being formed to safeguard and promote the economic interests of the member states. The OIC has to be reinvigorated and should chart its own path as a common economic and military alliance.
Strengthening of military allianceThe recent formation of the 39 countries' Saudi-led Islamic military alliance is a remarkable step in forming a military coalition of OIC member states. Even though officially it is not named an OIC military bloc, all the coalition partners are the OIC member states.
This military alliance needs to be further strengthened as a full-fledged OIC military grouping. A working military alliance is in need. That will ultimately help the member countries to keep imperialistic military interventions at bay.
Strong military alliances are being formed to safeguard the economic interests of world powers.
Many member countries are going through civil wars and armed conflicts where global powers are playing their nefarious games. A deployable military force formed by member countries will gradually help reduce the presence of foreign military forces in member countries.
Increased role of the Islamıc development BankAlthough the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is not a part of the OIC system yet, membership of the bank is reserved for the OIC member states. Member states should focus on strengthening and enhancing the scope of the IDB.
Since its establishment in 1973, the IDB has provided financing worth more than $115 billion to member countries in total since commencing operations 41 years ago.
Take a cue from China and strengthen your own institutions rather than toeing the post-Bretton Woods financial institutions such as the (International Monetary Fund) IMF and the World Bank.
The focus should be on increasing the reserves of the bank and helping the member states with adequate funds for infrastructure development.
On May 22, 2013, IDB tripled its authorized capital to $150 billion to better serve Muslims in member and non-member countries. The bank's participation and its basket size should be further increased. The bank should also help the member countries with the economic package to maintain the balance of payment.
Relocate the main organs of the OIC in member countries
There are many subsidiary organizations, specialized institutions and affiliated institutions to the OIC. These institutions are scattered in different cities in member countries.
There is also a need to relocate the headquarters of the major organs of the OIC system. The headquarters of the OIC and its other major organs should be scattered in member countries.
IDB headquarter should be relocated to a city that is a major financial hub in the OIC, likewise its proposed military alliance's headquarter should be established in a city of major military power among the OIC member countries.
Increased leaders' meetings
The Istanbul summit was the 13th in the last 40 seven years. As per the rule of the Islamic Summit, it should convene at least once every three years. There were times when the summits could not be convened at the stipulated time.
The OIC must start meeting and negotiating often. The Islamic Summit must be either an annual or a biannual event. More meetings and more interaction are needed to build a powerful interconnected bloc.
Multilateral and bilateral cooperation among member countries will automatically increase once the member countries start meeting more frequently.
No more separate blocsThere are many regional and economic sub groupings that comprise OIC member countries like the GCC, ECO, D8, (the Asian Monetary Unit) AMU, and CAU. But why are there organizations like the Arab League, a political grouping based on linguistic identity?
This is both discriminatory and a parallel political bloc and this has certainly weakened the efficacy of the OIC and created a question mark on "the collective voice of the Muslim world."
This kind of ethno-lingual league encourages fragmentation and tribalism while laying down misplaced priorities. There must not be more ineffectual letter pad organizations within OIC member states.
There are many negatives in the OIC, where 22 of its members are among the poorest countries in the world, more than half of them lack a stable government; many of them are faced with war and civil war, and there are coups and military occupation.
There are silver linings though. There are plenty of energy resources in the countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, there are major sea lanes of communication and choke points controlled by the member countries.
China's One Belt, One Road (OBOR), a mega project focused on connectivity and cooperation primarily between mainland China and the rest of Eurasia, in which both the land-based "Silk Road Economic Belt" and oceangoing "Maritime Silk Road" cannot be envisaged without the participation of many OIC member countries.
There are ample resources within the OIC. The OIC needs to effectively utilize material as well as spiritual and intellectual resources that exist within the bloc.
To reinvigorate the OIC, major member countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, and Pakistan need to work in close cooperation with a living sense of fraternal bondage so as to substantially contribute toward the common cause of the OIC. Even if few countries decide to chart a separate path, it won't affect the efficiency of the bloc.
There are certainly instances of inaction in the past on diplomatic, political and military levels, and now the stage is set for the OIC to redeem itself and initiate aggressive and coordinated efforts to achieve the goals it was constituted for.
The OIC along with its organs has done fairly well on the social, cultural and economic front, now the new Muslim leadership has to take the OIC to the next level of political and military alliance.
Suffice it to say that to make the OIC an effective world body, member countries must look beyond the economic and cultural sphere and there should be security and defense-related mechanisms within the OIC that will deal with internal conflict within the bloc and may work as a moderator for conflict of its member countries with the outside world.
* India-based international affairs analyst and columnist
About the author
* India-based international affairs analyst and columnist