Twenty years ago on June 15, 1997, the heads of states of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey came together for an exalted purpose and signed the Istanbul Declaration to establish the D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation. In light of the noble vision of Professor Necmettin Erbakan, our organization's founding father, the D-8 aimed to promote:
• Peace instead of conflict,
• Dialogue instead of confrontation,
• Cooperation instead of exploitation,
• Justice instead of double-standards,
• Equality instead of discrimination,
• Democracy instead of oppression.
20 YEARS OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC SUCCESS
Over the last 20 years, the D-8 has emerged as one of the world's most promising trade and economic blocs. It has established itself as a unique economic grouping of eight developing countries consisting of over 1.1 billion people or 15 percent of the world's population, a combined GDP of over $3.7 trillion, an export volume of over $693 billion or 4 percent share of global trade, intra-organizational trade of over $100 billion and annual GDP growth rate of 6 percent. In line with this impressive economic growth performance, the per capita GDP of the countries rose exponentially and more than doubled. From $2,207 in 1997, the average per capita GDP of the D-8 rose to $4,645 dollars in 2016. This has been a strong indicator of the overall improvement in living standards of the peoples of the member states. With its young and dynamic population, robust economic growth, strong trade relations and the will to cooperate in all strategic sectors, such as industry, agriculture, tourism, transportation and energy, the D-8 is poised to carry its success to the future.
In striving to achieve its lofty objectives, the D-8 has successfully held eight summits, 37 commission meetings and 16 council meetings with the participation of hundreds of delegates from its member states. It has also held several ministerial meetings, senior officials meetings, task force meetings, expert meetings and workshops in six priority areas of sectoral cooperation, namely trade, agriculture, industry, energy, transportation and tourism. As it marks its 20th anniversary, our organization is looking forward to consolidating its success with the ninth summit that is to be hosted by Turkey.
LEGAL INSTRUMENTS OF COOPERATION
Another area of success for the organization concerns the development of legal instruments required for the regulation of its activities and cooperation in areas that it considers critical. The conclusion and entry into force of the visa agreement, customs agreement and preferential trade agreement (PTA) have served to facilitate, regulate and promote cooperation in a variety of spheres among the organization's members.
Among these, the D-8 attaches great importance to the PTA, as it serves the ultimate goal of promoting and increasing the level of intra-trade among its member countries. The D-8 PTA was signed by all eight member states at the fifth D8 Summit on May 13, 2006, in Bali, Indonesia, and it officially took effect on July 1, 2016. The D-8 PTA envisages a cooperation scheme that will strongly benefit our member countries and boost trade volume and economic interactions among them. The PTA also aspires to facilitate intra-trade and increase its volume to $500 billion as targeted in the D-8 roadmap.
DIALOGUE WITH GLOBAL AND SECTORAL PARTNERS
Over the past 20 years, the D-8 has succeeded in establishing and developing cooperation with a wide spectrum of international institutions.At the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, all United Nations member states adopted the text of the resolution on observer status for the D-8 in the General Assembly. Observer status in the UNGA enables the D-8 to strengthen its public visibility, benefit from worldwide experience, including the opportunity to enhance its capacity-building process, and share a platform with the international community.
The D-8 also signed a Joint Declaration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) on April 2, 2015, in Vienna. The UNIDO, having institutional capacity for inclusive and sustainable industrial development linked to the sustainable development goals (SDG), will assist in capacity building in the D-8 organization.
Through these 20 years, the D-8 has signed MoUs with the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the Islamic World Science Citation Center (ISC), the African-Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO), the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), the Agriculture and Rural Development Support Institution (ARDSI), the United Cities and Local Governments Middle East and West Asia (UCLG-MEWA) and the Professor Necmettin Erbakan Foundation. A Letter of Intent to establish cooperation between the D-8 and World Maritime University (WMU) was also signed in the headquarters of World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden, in July 2012.
In addition to our partnership with international institutions, we highly value contributions made by our affiliated institutions, namely the D-8 Seed Bank, D-8 Technology Transfer and Exchange Network (D-8 TTEN), D-8 Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (D-8 FCCI), D8 Fertilizer Association, D-8 Automotive, D-8 International University, D8COOP and D-8 Animal Feed Information Center (D-8 AFIC) to the development of the shared economic strategy in the Organization.
WHAT'S THE FUTURE OF OUR ORGANIZATION?
The D-8 is still a young organization that has been in existence for just 20 years. Yet, it has made giant strides toward playing a major role in the global economic arena. However, the challenges ahead are enormous. Given the dynamic nature of international economic relations, we need to redouble our efforts to increase the density of traffic and volume of interactions between and among our members with a view to fostering economic cooperation and development. We also need to increase public awareness of the organization and its activities, first and foremost within the D-8 community and subsequently on a larger scale, and we need to expand liaison and cooperation with other economic and regional groupings and multilateral institutions. These will enable our organization to project itself effectively at the international level and play the bigger role that it deserves.
* D-8 secretary-general