Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Hon’ble Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The Foreign Secretary,
Chairman and Director General of Bangladesh International Institute of Strategic Studies-BIISS,
Your Excellencies, the Ambassadors and Members of the diplomatic corps,
Distinguished speakers of the seminar,
Senior officials of the Government and former diplomats,
Friends from the media,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Assalamu Alaikum and a very Good Morning to you all
Let me first thank and appreciate BIISS and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for jointly organising this timely seminar on OIC’s 45th Council of Foreign Ministers –CFM while we are hosting it in Dhaka in five weeks from now. This seminar holds particular importance for the people of Bangladesh. Through its rich discussions, I am confident; they will come to know what honour their Government has been given by OIC in hosting the CFM and as part of the Ummah, what they expect out of the forthcoming CFM and the OIC in years ahead. The seminar is also useful in reflecting what the people of Bangladesh would like OIC to be and to do in these trying times when the Muslim World is faced with so many challenges coming both from within and beyond.
Let me, for now, mention that this distinct honour came in recognition of Bangladesh’s active and constructive role and growing importance at the OIC. Unanimous endorsement in favour of Bangladesh is also a mark of the confidence reposed in the Government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I come to the subject of discussion today (the 45th CFM in Dhaka and revisiting our shared journey in OIC), let me dwell a little on why OIC is important for Bangladesh and why we are hosting this conference. You must be aware that giving top priority to Bangladesh’s association with the Muslim Ummah, we joined OIC under the leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rhman through his historic participation in the second OIC Summit held in Lahore in 1974. This importance attached by the Father of the Nation’s Bangladesh got amply reflected in Article 25. (2) of the constitution giving a clear foreign policy direction of closer relations with the Muslim world. The enunciation reads Quote-“The State shall endeavour to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity”-Unquote.
With OIC membership Bangladesh’s shared journey with the Ummah started. The organization has evolved from being a forum focusing on merely political issues into a much wider platform for cooperation in diversified fields of social, economic, environmental as well as development import. Bangladesh has since been actively engaged in OIC in keeping the purposes of the organization relevant to the times and needs of the Ummah.
OIC’s importance and value to us in fact, comes from its unique position. It’s the sole political organisation of the Muslim world with representation of 57 independent States, the right international body for voicing for the Ummah and serving their just causes, working for realisation of their aspirations and promoting their interests through joint Islamic action. It is the second largest global organisation after the UN with enormous prospects as the Muslim world possesses the world’s third of strategic resources to make the best out of that through the fourth of humanity including the highest ratio of youth population. OIC offers the unique opportunity of the association and cooperation of the Ummah, a wider faith based socio-cultural identity with a given precondition for solidarity and unity. Bangladesh with its 90% Muslim population, the third largest among member states, having its preponderant Islamic ethos and values finds its natural place in the fold of OIC. Bangladesh also needs Islamic solidarity to reinforce its independence and sovereignty. At the initial stage, the OIC membership indeed helped Bangladesh in securing recognition, establishment of bilateral relations with the Arab world which subsequently provided us with the first external labour market and a new source of foreign assistance. Oil rich Middle East still remains the largest source of foreign remittance representing around 70% of global remittance inflow. Socio-cultural interaction with the Muslim world also helps our people strengthen and flourish their Islamic values and bondage. OIC’s institutions like IDB are an important source of development credit for Bangladesh under the assistance of which more than a dozen development projects are running and several billion dollars of credit facility came our way to meet Bangladesh’s petroleum need. Bangladesh’s Islamic universities and institutions benefited from the Islamic Solidarity Fund.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now, why is Bangladesh hosting the CFM? Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and in pursuit of her Government’s Vision 2021 of a digital middle income Bangladesh, we have been most successful in attaining the MDGs and with steady economic growth of above 6% for a decade we have lately come out of the LDC brackets. Bangladesh is progressing confidently in all indices of development with a number of success stories such as - in being a model UN country, an inclusive society of interfaith harmony, having high rate of poverty eradication and a range of social safety net, women’s empowerment and gender equality, peace keeping in the world, largely containing terrorism, enhancing climate resilience, advancing in the fields of health, education, ICT, and STI. Time has therefore, come that we share these success stories and our best practices with our brotherly countries of OIC and contribute in whatever measure we can in our shared journey in quest of peace, development, rights and place of dignity in the comity of nations. A new emerging Bangladesh needs to be known.
With the decision of hosting the CFM, Bangladesh has already become part of the OIC CFM Troika and an influential member of the important 8 member OIC Executive Committee for three years. Bangladesh’s leadership role in OIC is going to enhance its good image and strengthen its diplomatic position in safeguarding and promoting its interests not only in the OIC framework but also at global stage with beneficial impacts both at home and abroad.
The question now comes what we are focusing in the Dhaka CFM. Certainly, the challenges facing the Ummah such as the conflicts, division, tension and instability of the Muslim world are getting our focus in the Dhaka CFM along with the problems of terrorism and violent extremism, sectarian tendencies, hatred, prejudice and Islamophobia, massive humanitarian crises with forced displacements- seriously affecting rights and dignity of the Muslim minorities like the Rakhine Muslims of Myanmar, persistent poverty and socio-economic backwardness of Muslim societies are OIC priorities. Protection of their rights and fundamental freedoms therefore, will remain a major preoccupation of this CFM.
The way the CFM is addressing these issues are through resolutions and proposals regarding political, economic, social, cultural and family affairs issues that are now under finalisation. The meetings of the Permanent Finance Committee, Economic, social, cultural and Family Affairs Commission (ICECS), and the Senior Officials in Jeddah this month have largely discussed these resolutions seeking to find solutions and approaches to the ongoing problems of the Ummah. We see these issues being approached under four broad ranges of draft resolutions: (a) those relating to peace, conflict resolution, mediation and security; (b) those relating to OIC economic and development agenda; (c) those relating to minorities and humanitarian questions and (d) those relating to OIC reforms. It is obvious that some differences in approach, emphasis, target of action, mechanisms and ways exist among OIC member states in dealing with these agenda. But consensus is the general principle that is being sought.
A number of initiatives are in the offing and specific resolutions for conflict resolution and mediation capacity strengthening are being considered.
For OIC economic and development agenda, efforts are on to operationalize OIC preferential trade arrangement called TPS-OIC to substantially enhance intra-OIC trade. Also new stage of programmes and project initiatives under OIC’s second ten year development plan called OIC: 2025 Programme of Action (adopted in 2016 Istanbul Summit) is coming with Dhaka CFM. Member states will now be invited to come up with their programme and project initiatives at this stage. Needless to say that Bangladesh made substantive contribution in developing this document with inclusion of new targets in several new areas including STI, blue economy, sustainable agriculture with new ideas of lease farming, and regional economic integration through multi-modal connectivity. Bangladesh has brought a new resolution on multi-sectoral connectivity. Mentionably, Bangladesh is taking the lead in forming a private sector and track 1.5 based economic cooperation initiative called South East Asian Cooperation (SEACO) with regional economic cooperation and integration in mind involving three South East Asian member states. Ultimate objective is to have a regional FTA and thereby encourage OIC FTA with this building block basis example.
Rohingya problem in its humanitarian and human rights aspects is going to get prominence. In fact, there will be a separate sideline session on the humanitarian challenges of the Muslim world with special focus on the Rohingyas on 6 May 2018 and prior to that a visit to the Rohingya make shifts in Cox’s Bazar will take place on 4 May.
A comprehensive reform of OIC and its system is a crying need of the day both for greater efficiency, dynamism and clout of the Organisation. Bangladesh along with some other brotherly countries are working hard with their thoughts and proposals for OIC reforms in a number of areas,- rules and procedures, organisational and Secretariat issues, their roles and mechanisms, recruitment rules, transparency initiatives, efficiency enhancement, observership and operationalisation of a number of new statutes, bodies and institutes are coming under these efforts. Discussions on these are going to take place in Dhaka.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bangladesh will be doing its utmost in taking up OIC agenda forward in the Ummah’s interest during its one year’s chairmanship. We have chosen a theme for the Dhaka CFM – “Islamic Values for Sustainable Peace, Solidarity and Development.” This is for the purpose of sending a particular message that through the pursuit and practice of eternal values of Islam such as tolerance, peace, equality, fraternity, justice and compassion, [on some of which some other civilisations rose in history,] the Ummah could remain firm in their right track, surmount multifarious challenges and reach the goals of sustainable peace, solidarity and development in our shared journey. This is in line with the vision of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of seeing OIC standing firm on its principles and values and the Muslim world becoming master of its own capable of solving its own problems within itself.
In conclusion, may I underline that the thoughts and recommendations coming out of enlightened discussions today would be of much value to us in the collective efforts of OIC and inspire us in our role as Chair of the CFM session. I am also taking this opportunity to request for active participation of the member states and guests in the Dhaka CFM to make it a successful one.
May Allah help us in our common endeavour.
Thank you all.
Mr. Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, M.P.