Authors: prof. Emmy Latifah and Sara Al-Dhahri*
For over half a century, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) serves as a focal point for its member states (MS) 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 (UN), whose members largely occupy the most fascinating part of the globe (that of its geographic and spiritual centre, as well as the sways of rich energy deposits), gives to the Organisation 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 its MS, to coordinate and unify the efforts of its members in view of the challenges faced by the Muslim world in particular and the international community in general. For that matter, the Organisation should 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 Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – as prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic tirelessly advocates in his statements.
The OSCE itself is an indispensably unique security mechanism (globally the second largest after the UN), whose instruments and methodology could be twinned or copied for the OIC. Besides, numerous MS 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.
Presence means influence
Why does the OIC need permanent presence in Vienna? The answer is within its charter: To ensure active participation of the Organization’s MS in the global political, and socio-economic decision-making processes, all to secure their common interests.
Why Vienna in particular, when the OIC has its 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 EU, and globally since it homes one of the three principal seats of the OUN (besides Geneva and New York).
Moreover, numerous significant Agencies are headquartered in Vienna (such as the Atomic Energy Agency, UN Industrial Development Organisation, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty organisation, etc.), next to the segments of the UN Secretariat (such as Outer Space, Trade Law, the ODC office related to the issues of Drugs-Crimes-Terrorism, etc.).
Surely, there are many important capitals around our global village, but after New York, Geneva and Brussels, Vienna has probably the highest representation of foreign diplomats on earth. Many states have even three ambassadors accredited in Vienna (bilateral, for the UN and for the OSCE.)
The OIC has nine of its MS who are the OPEC members as well. Four of those are the OPEC’s founding members. Vienna hosts OPEC as well as its developmental branch, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID).
Some of the OIC MS have lasting security vulnerabilities, a fact that hampers their development and prosperity. The OIC places these considerations into its core activities through co-operation in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, organised 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 civilisations and religions, the effective tool for that is again Austria. It is the very first European Christian country to recognise Islam as one of its state religions – due to its mandate over (predominately Muslim) Bosnia, 100 years ago.
Back to its roots
The Organization was formed by a decision of the Historical Summit in Rabat, the Kingdom of Morocco on 25 September 1969, after the criminal arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.
Today, after fifty years of this ferocious incident, the OIC still firmly holds as one of the main cases its resolute support to the struggle of Palestinians, yet under foreign occupation. It empowers them to attain their inalienable rights, including that of self-determination, 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 behaviours. As prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic wonderfully reminded us during his recent lecture with Amb. Goutali of the OIC and Excellency Elwaer of the IsDB President’s Office; ‘Past the Oil embargo, when the OPEC – in an unprecedented diplomatic move – was suspended of its host agreement in Switzerland and requested to leave, it was none but that same Chancellor, Kreisky who generously invited the OPEC to find Austria as its new home.’
The OIC is also heavily involved in environmental issues, such as water implementation. According to the Stockholm International Water Institute, around two-thirds of the world’s transboundary rivers do not have a cooperative management framework. The OIC Science-Technology-Innovation (STI) Agenda 2026 has also called on the MS to first define water resource quality and demand by planning national water budgets at the ‘ local ‘ level where appropriate. In this regard, certain MS lack the ability to conduct a thorough exercise. An organized and focused action plan to adopt the OIC Water Vision is introduced to help Member States address water-related issues.
As for the implementation plan for OIC Water Vision, Vienna is focal again. This city is a principal seat of the Danube river organisation – an international entity with the most elaborated riverine regime on planet. This fact is detrimental for the Muslim world as an effectively water-managing mechanism and instrumentation to learn from and to do twinning with.
So far, the OIC covers Vienna (but only its UN segment) non-residentially, from Geneva – respective officers are residentially accredited only to the UNoG. Permanent presence, even a small one– eventually co-shared with the developmental arm of the OIC – that of the IsDB, would be a huge asset for the Organization. That would enable both the OIC and the Bank to regularly participate in the various formal and informal multilateral formats, happening daily in Vienna.
Absence is the most expensive
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.
According to the Global Peace Index (2019 figures), the economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2018 was $14.1 trillion. This figure is equivalent to 11.2% of the world’s GDP, or $1,853 per capita. The economic impact of violence progressed for 3.3%only during 2018-19. Large sways of it were attributed to the Muslim Middle East.
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 (outside the OUN system), 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 members), and a from- Vancouver-to-Vladivostok outreach is simply the most natural thing to do. This would be very beneficial to the OIC MS, as well as one of the possible ways to improve its own instruments and their monitoring of compliance and resolution machinery.
That move can be easily combined with the bolder presence before the Vienna-based Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in advocating a just and sustained settlement for the Middle East – which is a nuclear free MENA.
Among the 57 OICMS, 21 of them are listed within a top 50 countries in the Global Terrorism Index for 2019. (With a ranking of 9.6 points, Afghanistan is infamously nr. 1 on the global terror index, making it the nation most affected by terrorism on Earth. The OIC member – Afghanistan, scored the most terror attacks in 2018 – 1,294; and the most terror-related deaths in 2018, with 9,961 casualties. Several other MS follow the same pattern.)
The OIC Charter (article 28, Chapter XV) clearly states that the Organisation may cooperate with other international and regional FORAs with the objective of preserving international peace and security and settling disputes through pacific means.
As said, Vienna is a principal seat of the second largest security multilateral mechanism on earth, OSCE. This is a unique three-dimensional organisation with its well elaborated and functioning: politico-military, economy-environment; and the human dimension – all extensively developed both institutionally and by its instruments.
No doubt, the OIC so far 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 neighbourliness, mutual respect and cooperation. But to remain to the contemporary challenges, it necessities more forums to voice its positions and interests. Many of the OSCE Member states have even three different ambassadors and three separate missions in Vienna. Presence of other relevant international organisations follows about the same pattern.
The strategic importance of the MENA (Middle East- North Africa) lies on its diverse resources, such as energy, trade routes, demography, geography, faith and culture. The OSCE has a Mediterranean partnership outreach, meaning some of the LAS and OIC members states are already participants, whereas the Central Asian states, Caucasus as well as Turkey, Albania and Bosnia are fully-fledged member states of the OSCE.
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 (perhaps the IAEA, too). This would be to the mutual benefit of all; Europe and the Muslim world, intl peace and prosperity, rapprochement and understanding, present generations and our common futures.
* 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) Centre of the OIC.
Diplomatic Fiasco: PTI Government’s Failure on the Climate Diplomacy Front
“Think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them”.– John F. Kerry
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have both declared that unrestrained climate change poses a threat to international peace and security. Presently, climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. We all will witness its impacts, making it a critical foreign policy and diplomatic issue. Climate change will overturn the 21st century world order and characterize how we live and work. Even so, in the midst of a global pandemic, it is evident that climate change will be the major issue of this century. As countries will move toward rebuilding their economies after COVID-19, recovery plans will shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean and green, safe and healthy, and more resilient. Over the last decade, foreign policymakers have taken measures to better understand climate risks. To date, foreign policy responses to climate change have primarily centered on the security repercussions of climate change.
To chart a fresh course ahead, in order to initiate a global fight against climate change, President Joe Biden welcomed a diverse set of leaders from around the globe to explicate the connections between climate security, climate change and broader foreign policy objectives. The list of invitee included world leaders like President Xi Jinping of China and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, PM Modi of India, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to attend the two-days meeting to mark Washington’s return to the visible lines of the fight against climate risks. Though, Pakistan have its place in the same region, and fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change, it has been disqualified from the summit. Likewise, Biden dispatched his climate envoy, former secretary of state John Kerry, to prepare the ground for the summit in meetings with global leaders. The U.S. invited the leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the 17 countries responsible for about 80-percent of global emissions and GDP, along with, heads of countries that are unambiguously vulnerable to climate impacts or are representing robust climate leadership.
The current global efforts towards mainstreaming of climate change in development policies and programs are getting more traction due to expanding avenues of domestic and international climate diplomacy. For developing countries, climate diplomacy is undoubtedly becoming a key incentive to integrate climate change issues into their foreign policy. Pakistan is also a relatively new player in the climate diplomacy arena with a nascent institutional setup. The climate diplomacy adaption experience of Pakistan is still at the embryonic stage. The main problem is the gradual decline in the aptitude and capacity of institution to develop a clear policy route. The policy decline is much more rapid under the PTI government. Pakistan’s ambassadorial clout has eroded over the years due to political unpredictability and economic timidity. Similarly, the government has failed even to built a national narrative on climate change issue. Imran Khan has been warning the world of catastrophe if the climate problem is not addressed, but has failed to come out with a clear policy direction on the issue.
Among the many challenges fronting the Imran Khan government will be tackling the notoriously dysfunctional U.S. – Pakistan relationship. The Biden presidency has designated climate change as a critical theme of its foreign policy, and indeed aware of Pakistan’s deep climate vulnerability. For the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pakistan is not a foreign policy priority for U.S. administration. Many high-ranking Biden government officials, including climate change envoy John Kerry, know Pakistan well. When Kerry was Obama’s secretary of state, co-chaired US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue that counted renewable energy. Anybody familiar with how Islamabad and Washington have interacted over the last 74 years will resort to weary metaphors: a roller-coaster ride, the dynamic between an overbearing mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Biden and his experienced team of ex-Obama administration officials are likely to press Pakistan – for Islamabad, it is a catch-22 situation. In the indigenous context, internal political strife in Pakistan and economic dependency on other countries have raised questions about our ability to effectively fight our case in international arena. The latest diplomatic fiasco speaks very loud and clear about the government’s inability to deal with fast-changing geopolitics. Washington’s broader interests in Asia, including relationships with China and India, will determine its policy at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. It seems, Pakistan has no friends in the Biden administration. Thus, out-of-the-box thinking is required for Pakistan’s foreign policy decision makers.
Gender Diplomacy: A concern For International Politics
Diplomacy can be defined as an art of interaction between actors (states/ organizations) to achieve mutually benefitted desirable interests of pursuing parties, especially in the international arena of politics. While diplomacy is an integral part of the Liberal school of thought which has primarily dominated world politics, yet the field of diplomacy is itself deprived of liberal virtues of equality and parity. Weighing the balance of ratio between both genders in diplomacy, the dilemma of the day is that females do not reach the level of participation to be in parity with male partakers in diplomacy. Having a statistical outlook at patriarchy-ridden Foreign Services around the globe, female diplomats in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the United States of America, and France makeup to 30%-40% of Foreign Service. While even the developed states have not reached 50% of female diplomats in their respective states, developing states in the South show an even less percentile of female diplomats. South Asian states like Pakistan and India estimate to less than 15 and 20 percent of females in the skill of diplomacy, respectively.
Being an equal sharer in foreign policy-making and policy implementation is a fundamental democratic right of both genders; to serve the country and to shape the future of the land which is their identity, their respect, and their pride. Apart from this that the balanced ratio of diplomatic participants is an integral right, involving women in diplomatic interactions may aid and enhance the pursuance of goals by the states. I would like to back my argument with not only contemporary examples but historical evidence, as well. Turning pages of history back to 400 B.C. where women are named as ‘weavers’ in the writings of Aristophanes to Lysistrate; referring to women’s role as skilled and accomplished diplomats who helped in the resolution of the Peloponnesian war. This act of inter-mingle, unifying, and peace-making through the prowess of consular skill set by then women is explained by Aristophanes in a phrase: ‘Weavers of nations”. This brings me to another point is that in contemporary times as pinpointed by the United Nations, the peace-processes in which women are engagers, 35% of those tend to last for at least 15 years.
While men are more forgoing towards minor details during foreign relation analysis, women tend to put more attention to minute details, which consequently results in the production of best-suited foreign policies. But it is noteworthy that to get potential benefit from this healthy difference in nature between males and females, it is potent enough to bring anequal number of female Foreign Service Officers as compared to male Officers. Having such a salubrious balance of both feminine and masculine characteristics can also equate chances of war and peace, spontaneous and patient decisions, and use of both: hard and soft power. Eventually, this egalitarian level complies with Robert Putnam’s ‘Law of Increasing Disproportion’ which links the rank of authority and the degree of representation of high-status in society. Nevertheless, being an Ambassador, diplomat or even part of Foreign Service is a matter of great esteem and so women in diplomacy, represent women of the society. Linking the argumentative dots mentioned above, the United Nations’ report endorses the importance of the role of women in diplomacy by considering their input as a vital ingredient for stable and secure democracy.
Applying the United Nations’ analysis on the inclusion of women in the artistry of diplomacy on developing states, particularly in South Asia, we tend to project various prosperous benefits of women diplomats in the region, particularly in the context of the two-decades-long conflicts: Afghan-Taliban Conflict and the Kashmir dispute in the heart of South Asia. Women in diplomacy in Pakistan, India, and neighboring South Asian states might weaken the bone of contention between the by-birth rivals: India and Pakistan through conflict transformation strategies. While the involvement of Afghan females in the ongoing and forthcoming Afghan Peace Processes and the future Afghan government can not only uplift the societal status of women in Afghan society but will improve the longevity of sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Eventually, colleen diplomats can help to divert the state-centric state and regional security paradigm of South Asia to human-centric state and regional security, resulting in diversified and proactive approach; fostering fraternal ties leading to paced development in the region and abroad.
To conclude with, as I have highlighted the irony of the hour with an un-equal statistical ratio of gender parity in the course of diplomacy and the importance of achieving this parity by incorporating women in the skilled framework of diplomacy, I would like to propose universally applicable policy measures to acquire this equivalence. The first and foremost step is to bring awareness in society for the encouragement and acceptance of more female diplomats as opposed to the conventional fields like medical and engineering sciences. Along with this policy changes should be made to ensure equal recruitment of female diplomats, specifically on merit to counter and curtail the patriarchal dominance, mostly due to the might of money. Lastly, a female-friendly environment should be promoted to utilize the feminine potential in Foreign Offices. Conclusively, equal participation of both genders will result in sustainably productive democracies—both, in letter and spirit. Hence, gender equality in diplomacy is essential for the growth and evolution of international politics.
Сultural diplomacy as an effective instrument of Italian soft power: the INNOPROM case
Despite the complicated geopolitical rhetoric of European interaction with Russia and economic sanctions, international life continues. In such conditions, culture remains in fact the only instrument for supporting and developing international relations. International cultural relations strive to maintain “neutrality”. In the context of globalization, the blurring of borders, it is cultural policy that can become a point of mutual understanding, finding a common language and preserving existing civilizational layers.
Cultural diplomacy is a state policy aimed, within the framework of foreign policy, at the export of representative data of national culture and at interaction with other countries in the same cultural sphere. The tools for the implementation of cultural diplomacy are primarily used to form a positive foreign policy image of the country, as well as indirectly for the development of intercultural dialogue, sustainable development and conflict prevention and are associated with various areas of human activity: cinema, religion, science, cultural exchanges, literature, theater, etc. much more.
For 2020, Italy was ranked ninth in the National Brands Index and eleventh in the soft power rating of the British agency Portland. Despite the fact that Italy was not included in the “five” leaders, its “attractiveness” for foreigners remains unshakable. At the present stage, the development of Italian culture outside is carried out by the General Directorate for the promotion of the concept “System – Country”, whose functions include: dissemination of Italian culture, language and creativity abroad; organization of cultural events (week of the Italian language in the world, week of Italian cuisine in the world, festivals of Italian cinema); coordination of the activities of cultural institutions and language schools; provision of scholarships and grants; ensuring the country’s participation in the work of various organizations in the field of culture, etc. Thus, Italy actively uses the basic tools of cultural diplomacy (language and culture, education and science, innovation, tourism) to build intercultural relations at all levels.
One of the most effective tools of cultural diplomacy is the holding of international industrial exhibitions abroad. This event always works simultaneously in several dimensions: 1) has a political color (as a rule, politicians solemnly open the exhibition, timed the signing of various bilateral agreements); 2) gathers a large number of representatives of real business (which promotes the national brand of the country, and also develops economic diplomacy); 3) demonstrates scientific and technological achievements (contributes to the activation of scientific diplomacy); 4) conduct a series of cultural events aimed at introducing and promoting national culture.
From this point of view, the Innoprom case is interesting, where Italy is the first European partner country for organizing the exhibition.
INNOPROM is an international industrial exhibition held in Yekaterinburg annually since 2010. This is the main industrial, trading and export platform in Russia. About 80% of the visitors of the exhibition are professional buyers from different countries of the world, specialists from industrial enterprises who make decisions on the introduction of new products and technologies in production. Italy was chosen as the partner country of INNOPROM-2021 – a country in the top ten economies in the world and in the top three of the European Union, as well as one of the main foreign trade partners of Russia. Over the past few years, the country’s industry has reached new heights in such industries as mechanical engineering, metallurgy, chemical, petrochemical, light and food industries.
At INNOPROM-2021, the Partner Country will present the achievements of the Italian industry, innovative developments, investment opportunities and prospects for further cooperation between the countries. The Italian Republic will become the Partner Country of the 11th International Industrial Exhibition INNOPROM. The exhibition will take place in Yekaterinburg from 6 to 9 July 2021, and the theme of the exhibition will be “Flexible Manufacturing”. During a working meeting with the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov, Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte confirmed the readiness of the Italian Republic to participate in the INNOPROM 2021 exhibition. and the nature of modern world economic relations, ”said the head of the RF Ministry of Industry and Trade.
At the moment in Russia there are about 500 enterprises with the participation of Italian capital. Italy views Russia as a long-term and reliable partner, and is also interested in the further development of trade, economic and industrial ties.
“In our opinion, this is a confirmation of how strong our ties are,” said Giuseppe Conte at the opening of the Russian-Italian business forum for cooperation in the field of small and medium-sized enterprises. More than 100 Italian companies have expressed interest in participating in the exhibition. According to preliminary data, the exposition of the Partner Country will be about 3000 sq. m., and leading Italian companies in the field of automotive, mechanical engineering, metallurgy, etc. will present their stands. As Italian Ambassador to Russia Pasquale Terracciano noted, “Italy is chairing the G20, and in July it will become the first European country to partner with Innoprom. Despite the sanctions regime imposed by the EU, Italy and Russia have a special relationship. The largest industrial companies in Italy (not only manufacturers of luxury and luxury cars) are actively working on the Russian market, and the Italian embassy, which occupies the famous Berg mansion in Moscow, remains, perhaps, the most hospitable».
The Sverdlovsk region and the Italian republic have been closely cooperating for many years. The Sverdlovsk Region has an Agreement between the Government of the Sverdlovsk Region of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Piedmont Region of the Italian Republic on trade, economic, scientific, technical and humanitarian cooperation dated July 22, 2002. In October 2015, within the framework of the visit of the delegation of the Sverdlovsk region to the Italian Republic, a memorandum of intent was signed between the Governor of the Sverdlovsk region (Russian Federation) E.V. Kuyvashev and the President of the region of Liguria (Italian Republic) G. Toti. The cities of Genoa and Turin are twin cities of Yekaterinburg. The city of San Benedetto del Tronto, San Remo are twin cities of the Verkh-Isetsky district of Yekaterinburg. The town of Selva di Val Gardena is twinned with the Kachkanar urban district. The city of Asti is twinned with the urban district of Krasnoufimsk. In 2019, the foreign trade turnover of the Sverdlovsk region with Italy decreased by 30.8%, while exports decreased 57.8%, imports increased by 3.7%. In 2019, for export to Italy from the Sverdlovsk region, mainly metals and products from them were supplied, including ferrous metals and products from them (semi-finished products of unalloyed steel, ferroalloys, sheet products, pipes), aluminum (rods and profiles), copper ( refined, rods and profiles), other metals (titanium, chrome), wood (plywood), mineral products.
On March 18-19, 2021, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Italian Republic to the Russian Federation Pasquale Terracciano arrived on a visit to Yekaterinburg. During a meeting with the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region Yevgeny Kuyvashev, they discussed the participation of Italy in the international industrial exhibition INNOPROM-2021 as a Partner Country of the exhibition. During the press approach after the meeting, Pasquale Terracciano named the companies that are planned to be presented at the exhibition. These are, in particular, the international energy group Enel, the oil and gas company Eni, the Leonardo machine-building holding and the car tire manufacturer Pirelli. During the visit, the ambassador had a rich cultural program. The representatives of the delegation visited the Museum of the first President of the Russian Federation B. N. Yeltsin; opened a photo exhibition of the Italian photographer Elio Ciol; visited the Sverdlovsk Philharmonic (as part of the visit to the Philharmonic, the choral singing of the performers was heard, the cultural program of the Innoprom exhibition was discussed with the director of the Philharmonic); visited the Museum of Architecture and Design, where an excursion was held for the guests (issues of preparation for the cultural program of the international exhibition “Innoprom” were also discussed).
Thus, the participation of Italy as a partner country of the international industrial exhibition INNOPROM is the most important effective tool for implementing cultural diplomacy. The event is not limited to an industrial exposition, although this is extremely important for Italian business, but also has a wide range of cultural interaction and drawing attention to the Italian cultural heritage and way of life.
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