The establishment of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was not a reactionary move; rather, it was the institutionalization of basic Islamic values such as consultation, solidarity and sincerity, Turkey's development minister said late Monday.
Speaking at a reception marking the OIC's 48th anniversary, Lütfi Elvan said the cooperation among Islamic countries is an accumulated result and a reflection of a longstanding need.
The OIC was founded on September 25, 1969 in Morocco in reaction to an arson attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in August of that year. It has 57 member countries and is headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
"As we are all aware, the Islamic world is undergoing difficult times with various forms of political and economic turmoil," Elvan said. "(The OIC) has fulfilled an important function for enhancing solidarity, brotherhood and cooperation among the Ummah for almost 50 years.
"As one of the founding countries, we gladly observe the endeavors of the OIC platform for enhancing cooperation in political, economic, cultural and social areas," Elvan said.
During the 13th Islamic Summit hosted in Istanbul from April 10-15, 2016, Turkey took over the presidency.
Elvan noted that the OIC is a big family and network of cooperation comprising a great number of institutions, like the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC).
"We also attach great importance to enhancing economic and commercial cooperation among our brotherly countries," he said.
"In this regard, the COMCEC provides an important policy dialogue forum for discussing our common economic problems and opportunities to advance our relations," Elvan said.
The COMCEC was set up during the 3rd Islamic Summit held in 1981. The highest ministerial platform for the OIC's economic cooperation is headquartered in Ankara and chaired by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Statistical Economic and Social Research and Training Center for Islamic Countries (SESRIC) is a subsidiary organ of the OIC and has been conducting its operations in Ankara since 1978.
Musa Kulaklikaya, director-general of OIC-SESRIC, said OIC members are dispersed over a large geographical region extending from Albania in Europe to Mozambique in Africa and from Guyana in Latin America to Indonesia in Asia.
"The organization is considered to be the collective voice of almost 1.8 billion Muslim people and works towards ensuring, safeguarding and protecting their interests in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world," Kulaklikaya said.
"With its 57 members, the OIC is now the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations," he said. "The organization has consultative and cooperative relations with the UN and other intergovernmental organizations to protect the vital interests of Muslims and to work for the settlement of conflicts and disputes involving its members."
Kulaklikaya stressed that the OIC's 57 members account for one-sixth of the world's land area and almost one fourth of the total world population, constituting a substantial part of the developing countries.
"As a group, the OIC members possess significant human and material resources and have considerable potential for production and trade," he said.
"They possess most of the world's proven crude oil and natural gas (reserves) and their share of young people in their total population is the highest in the world, around 53 percent."
Warning that Islamic nations lag far behind the global average in terms of many socioeconomic development indicators, he said Islamic countries need unity, solidarity and to ensure sustainable development, progress and prosperity of the Ummah more than ever.
"Islam offers several solidarity tools for strengthening the bonds of unity, harmony, friendship and peaceful coexistence among people, regardless of their culture and differences," he added.