Uzbekistan’s chairmanship in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) kicked off with a session of the OIC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs on October 18-19, 2016 in Tashkent.

The 43rd Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers was opened in the Symposium Palace. It was attended by foreign ministers of OIC member states, heads of subsidiary and specialized agencies, special representatives of the United States, France, Italy, the UK and Switzerland in the OIC, as well as representatives of reputable international organizations like the UN, OSCE, the League of Arab States, the Organization for Economic Cooperation, the Council for Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.

At the opening ceremony, the Interim President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev briefed the guests with the priorities of the country's chairmanship in the OIC. As he noted in his speech: “We are sincerely grateful for the fact that the capital of our country – Tashkent – was chosen to host this important forum of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as one of the largest and influential institutions of multilateral cooperation in the world.

We are confident that the current session will be a significant step towards the achievement of the noble goals of preservation and promotion of sacred Islamic values, solidarity between Muslim nations, sustainable development, promotion of progress and prosperity of the peoples of OIC Member States.

It is deeply symbolic that ‘Education and Enlightenment: the Way to Peace and Creativity’ was defined as the major leitmotif of the agenda of the 43rd session of the OIC Council. This idea is naturally cohered with the famous hadith that reads: “Seek knowledge from cradle to grave.” The theme of the session was proposed by the First President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, who had a huge life experience of eminent statesman, as a result of his deep reflection on the fate of the world, his people, the role of our holy religion in the challenging times.

Today, as the world is rapidly changing, it brings new challenges and threats to the stability and sustainable development of peoples, therefore, the focus on education, spiritual and moral origins, cultivation of the urge for knowledge and self-improvement in young people is relevant as never before.

Education and enlightenment are seen as the key to the prosperity of peoples. Education and enlightenment motivate people for good deeds, kindness and tolerance. That is what we are taught by our faith – holy Islam. This approach is the imperative of our time.”

The Council of Foreign Ministers ranks among the principal structures of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. It annually holds its session in one of the OIC member countries. At the 42nd  session in 2015 in Al-Kuwait, it was decided to hold a regular session in the city of Tashkent.

Opening the session, the current chairman of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, First Deputy Prime Minister of Kuwait, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah read a sura from the Koran. He expressed deep condolences to the people of Uzbekistan due to the passing of President Islam Karimov.

“Islam Karimov did huge work so that Uzbekistan could decently rank among developed countries of the world, and made a great contribution to the development of the Islamic religion. His noble work is continued,” said the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Iyad Amin Madani, expressing his sincere gratitude to the Government of Uzbekistan for the high level of preparation for the session.

In accordance with the Resolution of the First President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov of 19 August 2016, we thoroughly prepared for this international forum, providing all the conditions for events.

The session was held under the motto ‘Education and Enlightenment: the Way to Peace and Creativity’. The idea, according to participants, reflects the priority objectives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as the fight against the destructive ideology, the cultivation of correct understanding of the values ​​of the sacred religion of Islam in the population with the focus on the younger generation, and education of fully mature and well educated young people.

Located in the heart of the Great Silk Road, Uzbekistan ranks among the cradles of ancient civilizations. Our great ancestors Imam Bukhari, Abu Mansur Maturidi, Iso Termezi, Hakim Termezi Mahmoud Zamakhshari, Burhaniddin Marginani, Muhammad Kaffal Shashi, Abdulkholiq Gijduvoni, Bahauddin Naqshband, Khoja Ahrar Wali, Muhammad Khorezmi, Ahmad Ferghani, Abu Raihan Beruni, Abu Ali Ibn Sino, Mirzo Ulugbek, Alisher Navoi made a great contribution to the development of world science, the religion of Islam.

Religious values were revived in the years of independence under the leadership of Islam Karimov. The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Law ‘On freedom of conscience and religious organizations’ created broad opportunities for religious knowledge, worship. The Koran and its commentaries, hadith and other holy books were published in the Uzbek language in thousands of copies. Places of worship of great ancestors have been landscaped. Their anniversaries are marked internationally.

There are Tashkent Islamic University, Tashkent Islamic Institute, and other specialized  education institutions. Scholars of the Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies and International Center of Imam Bukhari in Samarkand research on the heritage of our great ancestors, making them accessible to our people and the world community. Every year, more than 11,000 Uzbeks go on pilgrimage - Hajj and Umrah. Acceded in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in 1996, Uzbekistan plays an important role in it with its huge social, spiritual and economic capacity.

Cooperation Horizons Expand

To date, the scale of international cooperation has increased remarkably. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation supported the meeting of the ‘6 + 2’ group for a peaceful solution to the Afghan problem, which was held in Tashkent at the initiative of the First President of Uzbekistan, as well as the creation of a zone free from nuclear weapons in Central Asia.

Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – ISESCO - announced Tashkent the capital of Islamic culture in 2007. Representatives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation were international observers in the presidential elections in the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2007 and 2015, and parliamentary elections in 2009 and 2014.

OIC experts participated in the international conferences on ‘Historical Heritage of Scientists and Thinkers of the Medieval East, Its Role and Importance for the Development of Modern Civilization’ (Samarkand, May 2014), ‘On Key Reserves of Implementation of Food Program in Uzbekistan’ (Tashkent, June 2014), ‘The Development of Cooperation in the Region of the Aral Sea Basin to Mitigate Environmental Catastrophe’ (Tashkent, October 2014), and other forums.

In 2003, Uzbekistan acceded the OIC specialized structure - the Islamic Development Bank. Dozens of projects in health, energy, agriculture and water resources, education, infrastructure development, small business and private entrepreneurship were implemented in the years of cooperation with IDB.

Uzbekistan regards the Organization of Islamic Cooperation as a recognized forum uniting Muslim countries, and its chairmanship in the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers as a recognition of the enormous contribution of our country to the development of Islamic civilization. From this perspective, Uzbekistan aims at comprehensive promotion of the OIC role in the world, and assistance in addressing the challenges it faces.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire Abdullah Mabry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Salohuddin Rabbani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Sudan Ali Alsanosi, Minister of Higher and Secondary Special Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan Rustam Kasymov spoke at the 43rd plenary session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers.

The Floor to Participants

"We are well aware that Uzbekistan ranks among the top in the list of the happiest countries,” said Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates Maytha Al Shamsi. “We have convinced ourselves by seeing modern Tashkent, its beauty, the happy faces of the people with our own eyes. Since ancient times Uzbekistan has been making a great contribution to the development of Islamic culture and science. The initiatives that Uzbekistan put forward at the session, the country's chairmanship in the Council of Foreign Ministers will undoubtedly contribute to further development of science, education and technologies."

“Uzbekistan is our closest neighbor, the fraternal country and a reliable partner,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Yerlan Idrisov. “Our relations are currently boosting. We are working on new long-term projects in transport and transit, mechanical engineering, metalworking, customs, agriculture and others. The large-scale and effective cooperation between our countries that have a great economic potential, has been primarily contributing to the welfare of our nations and the region as a whole."

“I am delighted by huge transformations every time I come to Uzbekistan,” says Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia Anifah Aman. “They are a vivid manifestation of the consistent development of your country. The importance Uzbekistan has been attaching to education of the younger generation has contributed to the development of education and science. I believe that during its chairmanship in the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, Uzbekistan will focus on these aspects, and have a positive effect on the development of education systems in the OIC Member States.”

Uzbekistan Takes Over Chairmanship

The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs - the State of Kuwait transferred the powers of chairmanship to Uzbekistan. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan will chair the Council of Foreign Ministers of Organization of Islamic Cooperation till the next session in 2017.

Uzbekistan considers the OIC as an effective and high-profile forum of Muslim states. Its role and significance are irreplaceable in strengthening the tolerance, mutual respect of cultures, peace and accord both inside the Islamic world and among the representatives of various confessions and peoples.

Assuming chairmanship, Abdulaziz Kamilov said as follows: “It is a big honor to us to undertake the functions of a chairing country in the OIC CFM. We consider this fact as an acknowledgment of a profound historical contribution, which Uzbekistan has made to the development of Islamic civilization. We see it as a trust to our country as respected, responsible and influential state in the system of modern international relations. In our part, we consider it as an opportunity to make our own contribution to the development of the Organization and resolution of important tasks before it.

As CFM chair, along with all our partners, we hope to make a commendable contribution to further extend the OIC’s potential and discover the new prospects of cooperation, as well as assist in implementation of the noble goals stipulated in the Charter of our Organization.

I would like just to express hope that during our chairmanship we will be able to achieve a notable progress on the issues in the current agenda of the Organization and thus to further consolidate the unity of the Muslim Ummah.”

(Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)