For over half a century, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has served as a focal point for its member states and as a clearing house between its members and the rest of the world. The OIC does that by providing a standing forum and diplomatic tools to solve disputes, and to address challenges in accordance with its charter.
Being the second-largest intergovernmental multilateral system after the United Nations, whose members largely occupy the most fascinating part of the globe (that of its geographic and spiritual center as well as the rich energy deposits), gives to the OIC a special exposure and hence a distinctive role.
The OIC Charter clearly states that it is important to safeguard and protect the common interests and support the legitimate causes of the member states, to coordinate and unify the efforts of its member states in view of the challenges faced by the Muslim world in particular and the international community in general.
For that reason, the OIC may consider expanding its activities further. One of the most effective way to do so, is by setting yet another permanent presence in Europe. This time it would be by opening its office in Vienna Austria, which should be coupled with a request for an observer status with a Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) — as Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic tirelessly advocates in his statements.
The OSCE itself is an indispensable security mechanism (globally the second largest after the UN) whose instruments and methodology would be twinned or copied for the OIC. Besides, numerous members of the OSCE are members of the OIC at the same time. Finally, through its Mediterranean partnership dimension, this is a rare international body that has (some) Arab states and Israel around the same table.
Why does the OIC need permanent presence in Vienna? The answer is within the OIC charter; to ensure active participation of the member states in the global political and socioeconomic decision-making processes to secure their common interests.
Why Vienna in particular, when the OIC has an office in Brussels (Belgium) and Geneva (Switzerland)? When it comes to this city, we can list the fundamental importance of Vienna in Europe and the European Union, and globally is because it homes one of the three principal seats of the OUN (besides Geneva and New York).
Moreover, a number of important agencies are headquartered in Vienna (such as the Atomic Energy Agency, UN Industrial Development Organization, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, etc.) as well as to segments of the UN Secretariat (such as Outer Space, Trade Law, the ODC office related to the issues of Drugs-Crimes-Terrorism, etc.).
The OIC has nine member states who are the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members as well. Four of those are the founding members of the OPEC. Vienna hosts OPEC as well as its developmental branch, the OPEC Fund for Development (OFID).
Some of the OIC member states have lasting security vulnerabilities, a fact that hampers their even development and prosperity. The OIC places these considerations into its core activities through cooperation in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, organized crime, illicit drugs trafficking, corruption, money laundering and human trafficking. Both the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UN ODC) and the OSCE have many complementarities in their mandates and instruments in this respect.
As an Islamic organization, that works to protect and defend the true image of Islam, to combat defamation of Islam and encourage dialogue among civilizations and religions, the tool for that is again Austria as it is the first European Christian country to recognize Islam as one of its state religions — due to its mandate over (predominately Muslim) Bosnia, 100 years ago.
Today the OIC has as one of the main cases to support the struggle of the Palestinian people, who are presently under foreign occupation, and to empower them to attain their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination, and to establish their sovereign state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital while safeguarding its historic and Islamic character, and the holy places therein.
When we look back to Austria, it was Chancellor Bruno Kreisky (himself Jewish) who was the very first western leader to receive that-time contemporary Yasser Arafat, as a head of state, and to repeatedly condemn many of the Israeli methods and behaviors.
International security is a constant global challenge that is addressed the best way through the collective participation in multilateral settings. It is simply the most effective, cheapest, fastest — therefore the most promising strategy to sustainability and stability of humankind.
The OIC fundamental purpose is to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, as embedded in its and the UN Charter and other acts of the international (human rights and humanitarian) law.
In this light, requesting the observer status with the largest security mechanism on the planet, that of the OSCE, which has rather specific mandates; well-elaborated politico-military, early prevention and confidence building mechanisms; net of legally binding instruments, extensive field presence (incl. several OIC member states), and a from Vancouver-to-Vladivostok outreach is simply the most natural thing to do. This would be very beneficial to the OIC member states, as well as one of possible ways to improve its own instruments.
Among its 57 members, 21 of them are listed within a top 50 countries in the Global Terrorism Index for 2019.
The OIC Charter (article 28, Chapter XV) clearly states that the Organization may cooperate with other international and regional organizations with the objective of preserving international peace and security and settling disputes through peaceful means.
As said, Vienna is a principal seat of the second largest security multilateral mechanism on earth, OSCE. This is a three-dimensional organization with its well elaborated and functioning: politico-military, economy-environment; and the human dimension — that is extensively developed both institutionally and by its instruments.
No doubt, the OIC successfully contributes to international peace and security, by boosting understanding and dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions, and by promoting and encouraging friendly relations and good neighborliness, mutual respect and cooperation. But for this, it needs more forums to voice its positions and interests.
Taking all above into account, the OIC should not miss an opportunity to open another powerful channel of its presence and influence on the challenging and brewing international scene. It would be a permanent office to cover all diplomatic activities and within it — the observer status before the OSCE.
This would be to the mutual benefit of all; Europe and the Muslim world, international peace and prosperity, rapprochement and understanding, present generations and our common futures.
Emmy Latifah is a professor of international law and is an international relations coordinator of the Sebelas Maret University (UNS), Surakarta, Central Java. Sara Al-Dhahri is an International Relations scholar of the Jeddah-based Dar Al-Hekma University and the project coordinator for Sawt Al-Hikma (Voice of Wisdom) Center of the OIC.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.