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Stronger cooperation within OIC critical for tackling urgent problems

7 September 2011 16:10
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Stronger cooperation within OIC critical for tackling urgent problems

ASTANA. September 7. KAZINFORM Kazakhstan's chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has begun this summer with the urgent task of stemming starvation in Somalia.

The OIC's Ministerial Executive Committee held an emergency meeting in Istanbul on August 17 to come up with ways for the other 56 nations in the organization to render food and financial assistance to one of the poorest countries of the Muslim world, press service of the Kazakh MFA reports.

Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov chaired the meeting, whose participants included Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, OIC Secretary General Ekhmeleddin Ihsanoglu and officials of 36 OIC countries.

Participants adopted an Istanbul Declaration on humanitarian and financial assistance to East Africa and on providing $350 million in aid to Somalia.

The participants agreed that the OIC, which plays an important role in responding to humanitarian crises in the Muslim world, is the only international organisation capable of delivering food and medicine to the entire population of Somalia.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed an OIC food security system at a meeting of the organization's foreign ministers in Astana in June - a prelude to Kazakhstan assuming the OIC chairmanship.

His proposal has assumed greater urgency as the world's television viewers have seen photos of thousands of adults and children in Somalia dying for lack of food and water.

The OIC's decision to establish a relief fund for Somalia offers hope that the country will be able to meet four mid-term goals that the organization established: food security, access to drinking water, improvement in health care and economic reconstruction.

Somalia has been reeling not only from drought, but from a long-running civil war.

As OIC chair, Kazakhstan is committed to seeing Somalia obtain the short-term relief it needs and begin moving toward a longer-term solution to its problems.

"We need to consider how the OIC can play a more active role in addressing the underlining vulnerabilities that have caused this human tragedy", Kazykhanov said at the meeting on August 17. "It is worth recalling that in the Astana Declaration (in June), OIC member States called for efforts to strengthen and enhance the role of the OIC in conflict prevention and resolution. Somalia would be a good place to start. This is a test of how the OIC can respond to a crisis, and how we can promote peace, cooperation and development in one of the poorest and most unstable Muslim countries in the world."

A week later, on August 26, Kazykhanov invited diplomats of OIC member states in Astana to an evening meal to break the fast Muslims had been observing during the month of Ramadan.

"It is with great concern that we are witnessing the spread of violence and tragic losses of life in different parts of the Ummah (the Muslim world) during the holy days of Ramadan," he said. "Regrettably, at the very same time, our brothers and sisters in Somalia are experiencing a disastrous humanitarian crisis, with more than four million Somalis facing the risk of dying from hunger.

"I am proud that our organization (the OIC) responded promptly," underscoring the viability of Islamic cooperation, he continued.

Kazykhanov said bank accounts opened in Kazakhstan "for individual donations to Somalia will allow us to increase the amount of the OIC member states' donations, hopefully up to half a billion dollars."

He said the OIC also agreed to establish an ad-hoc group to address the current emergency in Somalia "and to hold an expert meeting to create a food security mechanism as a long-term way of preventing famines in the OIC area."

OIC foreign ministers will be meeting on the sidelines of the 66th United Nations General Assembly in New York in mid-September to discuss a number of pressing issues besides Somalia.

Topics at the group's Annual Coordination Meeting will include the Israel-Palestine question, the Arab Spring uprisings, a number of countries' effort to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East and combating Islamophobia.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan is preparing to host the 3rd conference of OIC health ministers in Astana in October.

The purpose of the event is to strengthen healthcare cooperation among Muslim nations and implement the blueprint for improvement that health ministers adopted at their first conference in Tehran in March 2009.

The more than 400 participants at the conference also will discuss the draft of an OIC Strategic Healthcare Plan for 2012 to 2022.

In addition, there will be discussions of how OIC members can work together to achieve the United Nations' healthcare-related Millennium Development Goals. Two key millennium goals are ensuring the health of mothers who give birth and reducing child mortality.

Other discussion topics at the gathering in October will include eradicating polio, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and producing medicines, including vaccines.

In mid-July of this year, at a meeting in Astana, an OIC advisory panel agreed on the draft of a water-resources programme that member countries will consider adopting.

It lists ways to develop and preserve the resource and calls on OIC members to expand cooperative scientific programmes and projects.

The OIC water programme is designed to expand and complement existing bilateral and multilateral efforts for managing water. Water-resource officials in OIC member countries will be reviewing the draft in the next few months. The OIC's Conference of Ministers of Water Resources is expected to adopt a water programme at a meeting in Turkey in January of 2012.

With an array of diverse activities focusing on the most pressing and relevant issues, Kazakhstan's one-year chairmanship of the OIC Foreign Ministers Council has gone off to a very active start. Continued focus and the cooperation of its partners within the Ummah will be critical for achieving the success in that mission that the OIC expects and deserves.

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Zhanna Nurmaganbetova

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