• Tuesday, Sep 18, 2018
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What the OIC can do

  • Published at 12:51 am May 20th, 2018
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Uniting behind the Rohingya issue MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

The organization has a duty towards Rohingya Muslims

The 45th OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, recently concluded in Dhaka, stressed on unity and solidarity within the Ummah in its common aspirations of peace, prosperity, development, and security. This was the second time that Bangladesh, a member of the OIC since February 1974 (through Bangabandhu’s participation in the OIC Summit in Lahore), has hosted such a meeting.

This time, the council session acquired greater significance, given the crisis Bangladesh is presently going through because of the entry of nearly one million Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh from their homes in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

The OIC session became the platform for its 57 member states to not only re-affirm their commitment towards the OIC-2025 Program of Action, but also the need to enhance their cooperation in vital areas of political, security, economic, social, cultural, educational, environmental, and humanitarian dimensions. 

It was agreed that there were existing development challenges that included growing instability in different parts of the Muslim world, aggravated by long-standing, unresolved conflicts. There was a need to facilitate strategic dialogue, crucial for maintenance of international peace and security.

Palestine once again drew particular attention. There was re-affirmation of the Palestinian people to regain their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and to independence and sovereignty of the State of Palestine based on the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. 

It was also reiterated that Palestinian refugees had the right to return to their homes consistent with UNGA Resolution 194(III). There was also criticism pertaining to the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from its present location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

It was stressed that such a step would be in clear defiance of international law and the collective will of the international community. One needs to note here that this unfortunate development is also partially due to the clever measures adopted by the Jewish lobby and Israel to take advantage of the existing differences between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, West Bank, and the cleavage that is slowly evolving within the Arab World.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the opportunity of her presence in the council meeting to address the question of conflicts, internal strife, division, and instability that had resulted in large scale displacements of disposed populations. 

In this context, she also recalled her own distressing experience when she and her family members had to suffer as refugees for nearly six years. Subsequently, she appealed to the OIC states to stand solidly “by the forcibly deported Rohingyas” and in safeguarding their dignity and security, and also maintain international pressure on Myanmar to implement their safe return to their own country with dignity as citizens.

This aspect of the Rohingya situation was particularly important for Bangladesh. Members expressed deep concern over the brutal, systematic acts perpetrated by the Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya Muslim community. This, it was underlined, constituted a serious violation of international law. 

They also commended the steps and measures taken by the government of Sheikh Hasina in addressing the plight of these persecuted people. In addition, there was general agreement that there should be international support not only to resolve the crisis, but also in the implementation of the recommendations put forward by the advisory commission on the situation within the Rakhine state (Annan Commission).

Within this matrix, one needs to point out that this session also adopted a lengthy resolution on the Rohingya situation, based on a report prepared by the OIC -- Independent Human Rights Commission. 

This resolution has agreed to address the issue of accountability with regard to violations of human rights against the Rohingyas carried out by the Myanmar government law enforcement agencies. There was also an agreement to form an ad-hoc ministerial committee to be chaired by Gambia to address the accountability issue.

This was consistent with the comments made in this regard by the Canadian foreign minister who also attended the opening session as a special guest.

Her agreement towards extending further cooperation in this regard to Bangladesh has been reflected in her extending an invitation to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to attend the forthcoming meeting of the G-7 in Canada next month. 

She has been invited so that she can explain to the G-7 leaders the existing situation and also ask the leadership to exert necessary pressure on Myanmar for an early solution to this crisis. This is an important aspect that will have its own impact during the forthcoming UNGA session, later this year in September.

One hopes that our efforts within the context of the G-7 and the EU will facilitate towards Myanmar acting more responsibly in the resolution of this crisis. They are deliberately carrying out a public relations exercise without taking substantive steps towards necessary repatriation of the affected people. 

One also hopes that Russia and China, Myanmar’s staunch supporters in this unfortunate equation, will try to persuade Myanmar to expedite the process of repatriation. Both these countries, particularly China, need to understand that necessary connectivity through the One Belt One Road Initiative will continue to be affected in this region with this problem being present.

Another important aspect was the agreement to continue and further expand the programs and activities of the OIC institutions in the field of higher education, science and technology, and endeavour to strengthen the links between higher education institutions and promote joint scientific and research projects.

One cannot conclude, without referring to the good steps taken by the OIC, in stressing the need to ensure gender empowerment and the rights of children. Bangladesh has been an excellent example in this regard. 

If the other members of the OIC follow our lead, there is a possibility that the existing gender gap in some of the member states will be addressed positively. 

Muhammad Zamir, a former ambassador, is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information, and good governance. He can be reached at [email protected]