By J Nastranis
The UN Security Council members have affirmed the importance of enhancing cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in conflict prevention and counter-extremism, as well as the need for a comprehensive global counter-terrorism strategy supported by all regional partners.
In that regard, most speakers during an open debate of the UN Security Council on November 17 stressed “the importance of fighting terrorism, not only through security efforts, but also through development initiatives, conflict-resolution measures and the dissemination of voices challenging extremist ideology, including prominent religious voices”.
The United Nations has been working closely with the OIC for more than 20 years in promoting a culture of peace, tolerance and understanding though, according to the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca, this cooperation “has not been without challenges”.
Explaining the challenges, Jenca told the Security Council: “Resources, capabilities and mandates vary, and our memberships, although overlapping, are different. The strategies of the United Nations and the OIC, at times, may also be different.”
Speakers in the 15-member Security Council nevertheless called for “a stronger strategic partnership” between the UN and the OIC “on peace and security, particularly in relation to countering extremist ideology”.
The relationship between the two organizations was invaluable, given the magnitude and complexity of global challenges, said Jenca, during the Security Council meeting that also heard OIC Assistant Secretary General Hameed Opeleyeru and Columbia University professor Souleymane Bachir Diagne.
Opeloyeru described OIC and UN objectives as “broadly similar”, adding: “Both organizations are devoted to the cause of international peace, security and development and share common challenges in all domains of human endeavour.”
The OIC was a natural partner of the United Nations in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism. Having adopted the Convention on Combating International Terrorism in 1999, the OIC had been among the first to formulate a clear and principled position against terrorism, he pointed out.
Among many such initiatives, Opeloyeru continued, the OIC was developing narratives to counter extremist ideologies by elevating credible and authentic religious voices supporting tolerance and non-violence. It had established the Centre for Dialogue, Peace and Understanding for that purpose and to expose the reality of terrorist groups claiming to belong to the Islamic faith.
The OIC looked forward to further engagement with the United Nations in addressing the immediate and future challenges facing the Muslim world, he added.
According to the Security Council’s coverage of the meeting, Diagne cautioned that, in the sound and fury of the violence unleashed in the name of religion, one might lose sight of the fact that it had its roots in the promotion of human values. He said the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue must focus on the universal values that made human coexistence possible, including respect for universal human rights.
“Describing pluralism as a cornerstone in the promotion of peaceful coexistence, he said it was the authentic response to extreme violence. The OIC and the United Nations had a shared belief in advocating the unity of the human community and full respect for pluralism, he said, pointing out that Islamic texts also evoked pluralism.
“A core principle of Islam was that humankind was the lieutenant of God on earth and should therefore ensure the continual renewal of Creation, he emphasized,” stated the Security Council in its coverage of the meeting.
Speakers including the representatives of Angola, Uruguay and Malaysia encouraged the OIC to enhance efforts to promote tolerance within its various member States and around the world. In that regard, France’s representative highlighted the importance of all fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression. Many speakers underlined the importance of ensuring that terrorism was not associated with any one religion.
Underlining that there could be no differentiating between “good” and “bad” terrorists, the Russia’s representative said it was important to prevent terrorism by eliminating radicalism. Anti-terrorism efforts must be built upon the solid foundation of international law, he said, adding that attention must be paid not only to the military threat, but also to underlying causes, including conflict.
The representative of the United States suggested the appointment of a dedicated counter-terrorism coordinator to liaise with the OIC and other partners, in order to enhance cooperation in that field between the OIC and the United Nations.
Also speaking were representatives of Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom, China, Venezuela, Egypt, Uruguay, Japan, Malaysia, France, New Zealand and Senegal.
According to a concept note prepared by the Senegalese presidency (document S/2016/965), the OIC is mindful that fighting terrorism requires a comprehensive and inclusive approach that takes realities on the ground into account.
The United Nations and the OIC have worked closely to restore peace and security in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Darfur/the Sudan, Libya, Mali, Somalia and Yemen. They have also worked together on reconstruction and development in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sierra Leone and Somalia, the note states.
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jenca highlighted how the two entities worked together closely in addressing challenges in several countries and regions: The UN and the OIC share common objectives in promoting and facilitating the Middle East peace process and the question of Palestine, he said.
On Yemen, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UK Department for International Development and the OIC co-chaired a high-level event on the humanitarian situation in the country.
The UN appreciates the OIC’s support for a peace process in Afghanistan, whose realization is crucial for long-term growth and stability of the country, Jenca told the Security Council.
In Sudan, the partnership between the UN and the OIC remains an indispensable part of the collective effort of the international community to bring peace, security and development to that country. In Darfur, the core of that partnership has been the support of the OIC for the signing and the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, he stated.
In Somalia, the UN and the OIC maintain a critical partnership in state-building as well as in promoting comprehensive peace and security. In Mali, the OIC was a member of the international mediation team during the 2014-15 inter-Malian dialogue and remains a committed member of the Agreement Monitoring Committee to this day.
The senior UN official added; During the electoral process in the Central African Republic (CAR) at the end of 2015, the OIC played an instrumental role in defusing tensions between rival political parties in the country.
In agreement with Chad, the OIC successfully called on the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) to cease hostilities in the CAR and allow for the elections to take place in areas that were under its influence.
The UN appreciates the OIC’s support to the political dialogue process in Libya, and the OIC has played a key role in Sierra Leone’s recovery efforts since the civil war there and, more recently, in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak.
“Let us use this valuable Security Council meeting to reaffirm and deepen our common commitment to promoting peace, respect for human rights and offer of better opportunity for all the peoples of these regions and the world,” Jenca concluded.
OIC Assistant Secretary General Opeleyeru said: “We look forward to more engagement with UN to enhance the capacity of OIC on the basis of its needs and strategic priorities to enable it act as effective UN partner in addressing the immediate and future challenges that face the Muslim World. The UN-AU (African Union) example of partnership in the areas of peace, security and development is a good example to be followed in this regard.”
He concluded: “We would like to reiterate the pledge of the OIC to remain a strong and active partner with the UN to address mutual issues of interest and concern as well as current and future challenges in the defense and promotion of global peace, security and development.”