Founded in 1969, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is an intergovernmental organization whose purpose is the strengthening of solidarity among Muslims. With expectations as to the OIC's role in global human rights that are, to date, unfulfilled, this volume demonstrates the potential, obstacles, and shortcomings of the OIC.
Jul 2019 | 344 pages | Cloth $89.95
Political Science / Law / Religion
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Table of Contents
—Marie Juul Petersen and Turan Kayaoglu
PART I. FOUNDATIONS
Chapter 1. Setting the Scene
—Anthony Tirado Chase
Chapter 2. The Human Rights Agenda of the OIC: Between Pessimism and Optimism
—Mashood A. Baderin
Chapter 3. The OIC's Human Rights Regime
PART II. INTERVENTIONS: RIGHTS AND VALUES
Chapter 4. The OIC's Human Rights Policies in the UN: A Problem of Coherence
—Ann Elizabeth Mayer
Chapter 5. The OIC and Freedom of Expression: Justifying Religious Censorship Norms with Human Rights Language
—Heini í Skorini
Chapter 6. Competing Perceptions: Traditional Values and Human Rights
—Moataz El Fegiery
Chapter 7. The Position of the OIC on Abortion: Not Too Bad, Ugly, or Just Confusing?
Chapter 8. The OIC and Children's Rights
—Mahmood Monshipouri and Turan Kayaoglu
PART III. INTERSECTIONS: CONFLICTS AND COOPERATION
Chapter 9. The OIC and Conflict Resolution: Norms and Practical Challenges
Chapter 10. Fragmented Aid: The Institutionalization of the OIC's Foreign Aid Framework
—Martin Lestra and M. Evren Tok
Chapter 11. Governance of Refugees in the OIC
—Zeynep Şahin Mencütek
Chapter 12. The OIC and Civil Society Cooperation: Prospects for Strengthened Human Rights Involvement?
—Marie Juul Petersen
Marie Juul Petersen and Turan Kayaoglu
"The United Nations of the Muslim world" is how the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) often refers to itself. The OIC is an intergovernmental organization, established in 1969 with the purpose of strengthening solidarity among Muslims. Headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the OIC today consists of fifty-seven states from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The OIC's longevity and geographic reach, combined with its self-proclaimed role as the UN of the Muslim world, raise certain expectations as to its role in global human rights politics. However, to date these hopes have been unfulfilled. This volume sets out to demonstrate, by way of various methods of analysis, the potential and the shortcomings of the OIC and the obstacles (sometimes set by OIC members themselves) on the paths this group has navigated.
Historically, the OIC has had a complicated and conflict-ridden relationship with the international human rights regime and with the concept of universal human rights. Palestinian self-determination—a political problem with a strong human rights dimension—was an important catalyst for the founding of the OIC in 1969. Nonetheless, the OIC did not develop a comprehensive human rights approach in its first decades. In fact, human rights issues were rarely, if at all, mentioned at the organization's summits or the annual conferences of foreign ministers. Instead, the OIC tended to focus on protecting Islamic holy sites and increasing economic cooperation among member states.
As other international and regional organizations expanded and strengthened the international human rights system in the 1990s, the OIC began to pay greater attention to human rights, although not always in a way that aligned with Western states' conceptions of human rights. In particular, two initiatives came to shape the organization's human rights agenda and its (reactionary) human rights image in the eyes of the West throughout the 1990s.
First, in 1990, the OIC introduced the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which presented a set of religiously defined human rights. The OIC often argued that the declaration was complementary, not a substitute or alternative, to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and true to Islamic principles. At the same time human rights activists and Western states widely denounced the declaration. These detractors argued that subjugating human rights to religious limitations, as promoted in the Cairo Declaration, conflicted with essential principles of the UDHR, including the core principles of equality and nondiscrimination, thus undermining it.
Second, in 1999, the OIC introduced the first of a series of UN resolutions to the Human Rights Commission, asking governments to combat "defamation of religions" by limiting freedom of expression and criminalizing defamatory statements. According to the OIC, this was a much-needed step in the fight against rising Islamophobia in the West. Specifically, the OIC claimed that the defamation of Islam often led to anti-Muslim discrimination. Western states considered the resolutions contrary to freedom of expression and saw such efforts as an attempt to universalize anti-blasphemy laws. Coupled with harsh human rights violations in many OIC member states and the OIC's unwillingness to address these violations either through its own protocols or as a participant in international human rights proceedings, the OIC gained a reputation as a spoiler organization in the international human rights system.
The mid-2000s saw the OIC engaging with international human rights in a slightly more constructive manner. Internally, as part of a larger reform of the OIC, its Ten Year Program of Action (TYPOA) was published in 2005, introducing an explicit focus on universal human rights and highlighting the importance of incorporating human rights concerns into all programs and activities. Notably, the plan also stressed "the responsibility of the international community, including all governments, to ensure respect for all religions and combat their defamation." The new approach was most clearly manifested in the 2011 establishment of an OIC human rights mechanism, the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC). The IPHRC was charged with supporting member states in their implementation of international human rights obligations.
A number of other initiatives also had the potential to positively influence the OIC's human rights agenda, including the establishment of the OIC Humanitarian Affairs Department, known as ICHAD (2007); mechanisms for cooperation with humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (2012); the Peace, Security and Mediation Unit (2013); and the Women's Development Organization (2013). Externally, the OIC also showed signs of a more constructive approach at the UN. In 2011, the organization cosponsored a UN resolution that linked religious discrimination with combating hate speech. At least on the surface, this resolution signaled a move away from the anti-defamation agenda and, more generally, a willingness to engage positively with mainstream human rights conceptions rather than promoting a parallel system of religiously defined human rights.
Simultaneously, however, the OIC has continued to voice its criticism of certain human rights. Either as an organization or through the voices of its members, the OIC has opposed efforts concerning the rights of LGBTI people as well as certain women's rights, such as reproductive rights. Together with Russia, the OIC has cosponsored a set of resolutions on "traditional values," emphasizing the importance of conservative religious values in the interpretation of human rights. Furthermore, the OIC's internal organizational developments also invite serious questions regarding its commitment to their stated 2005 agenda. The OIC's main vehicle for human rights advancement, the IPHRC, was born with a severely restricted mandate and a minimal budget. Other instruments with the potential to impact the OIC's human rights agenda—such as the Peace, Security and Mediation Unit and the Women's Development Organization—took years to establish. The OIC's weak embrace of the organs that could further its human rights agenda reflects a lack of support by member states, testifying to the fact that state sovereignty and noninterference are still the defining features of the OIC.
These developments reveal the OIC to be an increasingly important actor in the field of international human rights but show that its human rights involvement is inconsistent, contradictory, and at times counterproductive to the promotion, protection, and further development of human rights. This makes it necessary to better understand the OIC, its actions, its motivations, and its organizational framework. In recent years, a number of scholars have begun to study the organization's engagement with human rights issues, including analyses of the Cairo Declaration and the Covenant of the Rights of the Child in Islam (Mayer 2012; Farrar 2014), the defamation of religion agenda and Resolution 16/18 (Rehman and Berry 2012; Petersen and Kayaoglu 2013; Bettiza and Dionigi 2014; Kayaoglu 2014; Langer 2014; Limon et al. 2014; Skorini and Petersen 2017), the IPHRC (Petersen 2012; Kayaoglu 2013), civil society cooperation (Ameli 2011), humanitarianism (Svoboda et al. 2015), counterterrorism (Samuel 2013), the OIC's status in international law (Cismas 2014), and the OIC and LGBTI rights (Chase 2012). Expanding on much of this work and presenting new analyses, this book aims to provide a comprehensive examination of the OIC's human rights approach with a focus on both the factors shaping this approach and the OIC's influence on wider human rights developments.
Human Rights, Intergovernmental Organizations, and Global Islam
Presenting a nuanced and detailed case study of the OIC, the book not only provides essential empirical and theoretical insights on the OIC and human rights, it also contributes to the broader scholarly discussions centered around contemporary challenges to human rights, intergovernmental organizations, and global Islam.
Earlier literature on human rights was premised on an (implicit) assumption that human rights diffusion is a linear process resulting in institutionalization and "closure." As such, this literature has difficulties accounting for challenges to human rights. Contemporary research—emerging from international relations, anthropology, and sociology—has shown that human rights are not definitively accepted when internalized in hard law and institutions (Redhead and Turnbull 2011:186) but remain contested even after their internalization. As such, human rights are better conceived as open-ended processes in which "co-optation, drift, accretion and reversal of a norm—including disputes over whether it is a norm at all—are constant possibilities" (Krook and True 2012:104) and the risk of decay and erosion is ever-present (Panke and Petersohn 2012). Recent research has explored processes of norm reconceptualization (Krook and True 2012), localization and vernacularization (Merry 2006; Acharya 2011; Zwingel 2012), and contestation (Wiener 2012). Questioning conceptions of human rights as fixed and static norms, this literature instead directs attention to the various ways in which human rights are constantly challenged, appropriated, co-opted, and rejected. As such, human rights discourses and practices are best conceptualized as "politics" in the sense of power struggles to fix meaning, decision-making, and resource allocation, or as attempts to constitute the social in certain ways (Laclau and Mouffe 1985).
Through an examination of the OIC's engagement with human rights discourses and practices, this volume explores the ways in which human rights are not only challenged and rejected, but also—and perhaps increasingly so—co-opted and reconceptualized. The volume comprises new perspectives, extensive research, and differing insights, providing empirical information on a key—but often overlooked—actor in contemporary human rights politics.
Thus the volume presents new perspectives on the recent expansion of the international human rights regime. Challenges to human rights, we argue, no longer come primarily from outside the human rights system but also from within the expanded system, offered up in the same human rights language as the regime itself was constructed—that of those who are criticized. This dynamic also means that traditional dichotomies between universalism and relativism fall short of explaining contemporary challenges to human rights. While the OIC does still deploy a relativist critique of human rights at times, in other instances the organization's critique is formulated in terms of an alternative universalism, making the conflict over human rights as much a conflict between competing universalisms (Halliday 1995) as it is between universalism and relativism. Furthermore, this volume's analyses of the OIC's direct attention to the crucial fact that differences in values and worldviews are not the only source of conflict over human rights, and that competing policy priorities, power relations, and historical experiences all play an equally important role in understanding contemporary challenges to human rights.
In this politics of human rights, international organizations are often seen as key sites for the construction and diffusion of global norms, ideas, and practices (Barnett and Finnemore 2004). Much international relations literature on human rights has foregrounded the role of international organizations in the creation, diffusion, and internalization of these international norms (Finnemore and Sikkink 1998; Finnemore and Sikkink 2001). Research to date has included analysis of how and when international organizations frame human rights issues, set the agenda of state negotiations, and alter the positions of states (Checkel 1999; Risse et al. 1999; Ratner 2000). However, as Bettiza and Dionigi (2014) argue, much scholarship is marked by considerable Western-centrism, apparent in the overwhelming focus on "good" global norms, promoted by Western-based actors, in non-Western contexts (2). This Western-centrism is also evident in a tendency to assume a one-way process of norm diffusion from the West to the rest of the world.
A focus on the OIC brings a new perspective, shedding light on the ways in which non-Western actors engage with human rights, not only as norm-takers but also as norm-makers, seeking to promote and internationalize their own beliefs, values, and principles (Bettiza and Dionigi 2014:2). At the same time, an analysis of the OIC's engagement with human rights issues can contribute to modifying expectations concerning the power and influence of international organizations. Although international organizations can be placed on a continuum of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism, human rights scholars tend to study supranational organizations and how these organizations use their autonomy from and power over member states to advance human rights agendas. This tendency creates the image of international organizations as valuable for human rights. The OIC is a good example of an intergovernmental organization that has very little autonomy from and power over member states. Its human rights agenda and occasionally unhelpful role in human rights politics and governance challenge the expected positive role of international organizations in human rights literature.
As several chapters in this volume demonstrate, the OIC is an important actor in the UN, capable of effectively framing human rights issues on its own terms, but the OIC has (and seeks) little influence at the level of its own member states. There are few examples of the organization having altered the human rights positions of OIC member states or influenced their negotiations on human rights issues. In fact, the OIC rarely engages in discussions on human rights issues in member states, thus reflecting the importance that the OIC member states place on the principle of noninterference and pointing to the disproportionate power of (certain) states in shaping the organization's human rights approach.
Finally, an analysis of the OIC's engagement with human rights issues can contribute to understanding the inherent heterogeneity of international organizations in general and the OIC in particular. Consisting of fifty-seven member states, each with its own political, economic, cultural, and religious characteristics, the OIC is constantly struggling to maintain organizational unity. From this perspective, the OIC's ambiguous, ambivalent, and sometimes outright contradictory human rights discourses and practices are not only expressions of opportunistic realpolitik but are just as much strategies for organizational survival, designed to contain internal disagreements and conflicts.
In this, religious discourses and practices play an important role for the OIC, making it a key actor in contemporary struggles to define global Islam. In literature on global Islam, the role of the OIC as a pan-Islamic organization is severely under-researched (notable exceptions are Haynes 2001; Akbarzadeh and Connor 2005; Kayaoglu 2015). Instead, analyses of global Islam have tended to focus on "political Islam." This analytical perspective has led to studies of organizations and movements working for the establishment of a political order based on Islam and Sharia whether through the nonviolent capture of state power, as is the case with the Muslim Brotherhood, or through violent means, as is the case with the Islamic State and Al Qaeda (Mandaville 2014). Recent years have witnessed an increasing interest in other manifestations of global Islam, highlighting the emergence of a "civil Islam" that focuses on values and morality, whether through charity, education, or other forms of social action in civil society (Hefner 2000; Krause 2012).
Neither expressing a straightforward political Islam, nor a civil Islam (but in part and at times relying on both), the OIC presents an alternative Islamic response to the challenges of globalization and modernity, invoking religion as a relevant factor in global value politics (Cismas 2014). As an Islamic organization, the OIC claims to speak on behalf of not only its member states but, controversially, on behalf of Islam and the umma, the worldwide Muslim community (Kayaoglu 2015). However, as the contributions to this volume demonstrate, this is a difficult role. Since member states differ widely in terms of their interpretations of Islam and its place in the public sphere, the Islam that the OIC represents must necessarily be an eclectic, flexible, and "thin" Islam, capable of accommodating a wide variety of positions but also inherently ambiguous and at times contradictory. Within the OIC, where are the conflicts over the meaning and role of Islam? What conceptions of Islam are prioritized over others? When is Islam invoked as a relevant factor? Exploring such questions, the chapters in this volume not only shed light on the identity of the OIC as a "religionist organization" (Cismas 2014) but also contribute to a broader study of the contemporary politics of Islam.
Foundations, Interventions, and Intersections: Structure and Themes of the Book
Gathering perspectives from some of the world's leading scholars on the OIC, this volume explores the nexus between the OIC and the international human rights regime, assessing and clarifying the OIC's vision, role, and influence in the field of international human rights. Exploring the OIC's human rights activities at many levels—in the UN, in the organization's own institutions, and at member state level—the volume's twelve chapters assess many aspects of the OIC's approach to human rights, identifying priority areas of involvement and underlying conceptions of human rights, analyzing the factors that shape these OIC actions and understandings, and discussing the consequences they may have for the broader human rights field. While the twelve chapters in this volume take diverse disciplinary approaches, emphasize various analytical levels (state-centric, organizational, or transnational) and focus on different aspects of the relationship between the OIC and human rights, they all seek to explore and answer three main questions.
First, contributors to this volume ask what the OIC's approach is to human rights and human rights-related issues. In answering this question, the chapters present in-depth, empirical descriptions of the OIC's human rights discourses and practices, analyzing the organization's human rights agendas, exploring their historical development, comparing divergent conceptions of human rights within the OIC, and discussing areas of conflict and congruence between the OIC's human rights discourses and practices and those of the international human rights regime. In so doing, the volume points to an emerging human rights perspective in the OIC—that being one which approaches human rights from a place that is ideologically conservative, rather than Islamist; is oriented toward state security, rather than human security; and exhibits a strong preference for human rights diplomacy, rather than human rights advocacy. At the same time, however, the writers of this volume demonstrate that this perspective is far from consolidated in the organization but ambiguous and unstable, pointing to inherent contradictions in the OIC's organizational identity as well as deep-seated disagreements among member states, between headquarters and certain member states, and between organizational entities.
Second, the authors ask why the OIC favors this particular approach to human rights, exploring various explanatory factors and models. Directing attention to the organizational politics and internal dynamics of the OIC, each author explores issues of power and authority in order to analyze the roles that member states, organizational entities, and individuals play in shaping the OIC's human rights agenda. The intergovernmental nature of the OIC; the organization's endemic lack of financial, human, and political resources; the dominance of conservative members, in particular Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan; the marginalization of civil society actors in OIC activities; and the lack of human rights expertise among OIC leaders have all shaped the OIC's human rights approach. However, the OIC's approach is not determined solely by internal dynamics. Rather, the OIC's human rights approach is also subject to influence by external actors as well as political, social, economic, and cultural structures, thereby creating conditions of possibility and constraint for particular human rights interpretations. For example, the lack of both a strong OIC and a broader Muslim voice in the UN Security Council has contributed to the OIC's strategy of using the Human Rights Council instead, effectively resulting in a highly politicized and securitized perspective toward human rights.
Third, each chapter addresses the wider consequences of the OIC's human rights approach. Placing the OIC in the larger context of global politics, the authors present informed suggestions as to what the organization's human rights engagement means for the development of an international human rights regime. Has the OIC succeeded in influencing the human rights agenda? If so, in what ways? If not, why not? Will the organization's human rights discourses and practices contribute to strengthening or weakening human rights? Will they broaden or limit the scope of human rights? Will they substantially change the meaning of human rights? In Chapter 4, Ann Mayer argues that the OIC's human rights policies at the UN involve injecting incongruous religious factors that undermine human rights because these factors ultimately serve to discredit the freedoms espoused by Western democracies. Other contributors are slightly more positive: Petersen, for example, argues that the OIC's increased cooperation with humanitarian organizations may present an opportunity for greater human rights engagement in relation to economic, social, and cultural rights.
The book is divided into three sections. Part I, Foundations, establishes the theoretical and organizational foundations of the book. In Chapter 1, "Setting the Scene," Anthony Tirado Chase presents a theoretical and conceptual framework for analyzing and understanding the OIC and human rights. Will the OIC's engagement with human rights advance human rights in the Muslim world or are these efforts a problematic strategy to co-opt or even subvert human rights? And, more broadly, what does the OIC's engagement with human rights say about the ways in which human rights norms are independently affected by international organizations, either positively or negatively? Answering these questions, Chase argues that an international organization such as the OIC, dominated by conservative, authoritarian states, is unlikely to create political opportunity structures to advance human rights. Indeed, the OIC's record shows that, if it has had any independent impact on human rights at all, the effect has been to create regional and international opposition to the expansion of human rights.
Opposing Chase's skepticism in Chapter 2, "Human Rights Agenda of the OIC: Between Pessimism and Optimism," Mashood A. Baderin offers a cautiously optimistic account of the OIC's contribution and future potential as a human rights actor. Baderin argues that OIC activities and challenges should be perceived as attempts to contribute to the "inclusive universalism in the international human rights system." Thus, the OIC complements the UN human rights system by offering a regional human rights system rather than undermining it by offering its human rights system as an alternative. In the process, the OIC has been challenged to "harmonize . . . Islamic values with international human rights standards." Baderin presents a three-pronged critique of the OIC's human rights agenda in the context of an "is-ought" analysis with regard to the conceptualization, standard-setting, and implementation of human rights. Juxtaposing pessimistic and optimistic perspectives on OIC activities, he strongly asserts why we should be optimistic about the OIC's activities and their potential as a human rights actor.
Moving from the theoretical and conceptual aspects of the OIC's human rights involvement to the organizational ones, Turan Kayaoglu's "The OIC's Human Rights Regime" (Chapter 3) provides an introductory overview of the OIC institutions relevant to understanding the organization's human rights involvement. Kayaoglu examines the OIC mechanisms, documents, organs, and actors that produce and implement the organization's human rights agenda, whether directly—such as the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, the OIC's UN offices in New York and Geneva, and the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission—or more indirectly, such as the Department on Muslim Minorities and Communities, the Islamophobia Observatory, and the Humanitarian Affairs Department.
Part II, Interventions: Rights and Values, addresses the OIC's involvement in issues directly framed as human rights issues, focusing on those human rights that have been particularly challenged by the OIC and exploring the ways in which the OIC approaches and conceptualizes these rights in UN debates and within its own institutions. The section's five chapters present analyses of the OIC's approach to rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion, women's rights, and children's rights. In Chapter 4, "The OIC's Human Rights Policies in the UN: A Problem of Coherence," Ann Elizabeth Mayer asks whether the OIC can articulate a coherent philosophy on how Islamic concerns relate to human rights. Mayer argues that the OIC appears incapable—or unwilling—to distinguish between secular principles of international law and religious precepts of Islamic doctrine and that its attempt to subjugate the former to the latter would impose Islamic censorship worldwide.
In Chapter 5, "OIC and Freedom of Expression: Justifying Religious Censorship Norms with Human Rights Language," Heini í Skorini zooms in on one of the OIC's most controversial human rights policies, the so-called defamation of religions resolutions presented by the OIC to the UN Human Rights Council each year from 1999 until 2010. Tracing the historical trajectory of these resolutions, the chapter explores the conflict between the OIC and Western states over the right to free speech and protection of religious sentiments, analyzing the shifting strategies and terminologies of the OIC.
In "Competing Perceptions: Traditional Values and Human Rights," Chapter 6, Moataz El Fegiery explores another UN debate in which the OIC has played a key role, namely the debate on the role of traditional values in the promotion of human rights. Focusing on the 2009 resolution "Promoting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Through a Better Understanding of Traditional Values of Humankind," presented to the Human Rights Council by Russia and vehemently supported by the OIC, El Fegiery examines how the concept of traditional values is defined and promoted as a way to limit or block certain human rights, in particular LGBTI rights and certain women's rights.
Ioana Cismas further explores the position of the OIC on women's rights in Chapter 7, "The Position of the OIC on Abortion: Not Too Bad, Ugly, or Just Confusing?" Cismas analyzes relevant provisions related to the topic of abortion in OIC human rights instruments and documents, and contrasts these with the organization's statements in UN forums and the practices of selected member states. While the organization's position on aspects related to sexuality is commonly described as strongly conservative, Cismas demonstrates that its stance on abortion is far more complex and at times contradictory and incoherent. In an effort to deconstruct this disharmony, the study explores religious, legal, political, and sociohistorical factors and argues for the need to build legitimacy from within the OIC in order to advance a progressive OIC sexuality agenda.
The last chapter in this section, Mahmood Monshipouri and Turan Kayaoglu's "The OIC and Children's Rights," focuses on (in the eyes of the OIC) a less controversial set of rights, namely children's rights. In fact, the OIC's 2005 Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam is the organization's only potentially binding human rights document. Monshipouri and Kayaoglu present the OIC's position and activities on children's rights, comparing the Covenant with UN standards on children's rights and discussing the ways in which the OIC seeks to align children's rights with respect to Islamic traditions. They argue that even when the OIC has prioritized the development of a covenant on the rights of children, the organization has been ineffective in implementing these standards, reflecting among other things the ambiguous nature of the covenant.
Part III, Intersections: Conflicts and Cooperation, focuses on areas of the OIC's work that are not explicitly framed in terms of human rights but which are nonetheless highly relevant to understanding the organization's position and influence in the field of human rights. Exploring the OIC's involvement in the areas of conflict resolution, humanitarian and development aid, refugee law, and civil society cooperation, this section analyzes the role that human rights play (or do not play) in this involvement, pointing to similarities with and differences from the ways in which the OIC engages in more explicit human rights issues. Chapter 9, Hirah Azhar's "The OIC and Conflict Resolution: Norms and Practical Challenges" analyses the role of human rights in the OIC's conflict resolution efforts. For many regional and international organizations, the protection of human rights forms the very cornerstone of their conflict resolution discourse and involvement. Analyzing the OIC's engagement in conflict resolution, including the Peace, Security and Mediation Unit and the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, Azhar argues that the OIC has largely ignored the issue of human rights in its conflict resolution efforts, reflecting the interests of certain influential member states.
Evren Tok and Martin Lestra's chapter, "Fragmented Aid? The Institutionalization of the OIC's Foreign Aid Framework," looks at the OIC's involvement in humanitarian and development aid. Reflecting the organization's wish to institutionalize "Islamic solidarity," the OIC has engaged in this issue since its early days, manifested in the establishment of, for example, the Islamic Development Bank, the Islamic Solidary Fund, and—more recently—the Humanitarian Affairs Department. Tok and Lestra feel that, theoretically, foreign aid presents an area in which the OIC could act as a credible, effective, and cohesive alternative to established frameworks. In practice, however, what started as a promising political enterprise led to a puzzling outcome, characterized by fragmentation and ineffectiveness.
Chapter 11, Zeynep Mencütek's "Governance of Refugees in the OIC," explores another area in which the OIC has the potential to become an important actor on the international scene. As both the main source of and as host to refugees and internally displaced persons, the OIC might well be expected to develop a policy to address the causes as well as consequences of internally or externally displaced populations. However, as Mencütek demonstrates, the organization has been slow in developing such a framework and lacks an integrated approach, often limiting its activities to humanitarian aid during refugee crises.
In Chapter 12, "The OIC and Civil Society Cooperation: Prospects for Strengthened Human Rights Involvement?" Marie Juul Petersen explores the OIC's relations with civil society. Parallel to its increased attention to human rights, the OIC has claimed a willingness to strengthen its cooperation with civil society, including, among other things, the introduction of "consultative status" to certain NGOs. How, if at all, does this strengthened cooperation with civil society influence the OIC's human rights involvement? Building on an empirical analysis of the OIC's relations with civil society, Petersen contends that the inherent potential of civil society organizations is impeded by the fact that the OIC prioritizes cooperation with apolitical, service-oriented organizations, the majority of them conservative Islamic NGOs engaged in the provision of humanitarian aid rather than human rights advocacy organizations.
The perspectives of the authors gathered here vary widely and present an interdisciplinary mosaic intended to provoke discourse on their role in the global community. Since the OIC's inception in 1969, its place in the world of international diplomacy has evolved, changed, and been strengthened over time. The analysis of its role—past, present, and future—is both timely and worthwhile. The value lies not only in the analysis but in the critical engagement with an international organization with an abundance of potential to effect change in critical times.