Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Al-Zaytouna Centre's Participation in the 2nd Think Tanks Forum of the OIC Countries


     The 2nd Think Tanks Forum of the OIC Countries was held in Istanbul, on 30-31/3/2011. It was organized by the Turkish Institution TASAM. The Conference brought together a select of experts, intellectuals, and academics from various influential think tanks across the countries of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), in addition to official and diplomatic figures. Al-Zaytouna Centre has participated through its General Manager, Dr. Mohsen Saleh, and Researcher/ Executive Assistant Mr. Wael Saad.

     The Forum was entitled "Public Diplomacy". The opening statement was by Mr. Suleyman Sensoy, Chairman of TASAM who focused on the importance of public diplomacy in making local and foreign policies in Islamic countries, and on its importance on the various political, economic, cultural, social and security levels. Sensoy's address was followed by four other keynotes, the first on behalf of Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of OIC; the second by Momodou Tangara, Foreign Minister of Gambia; the third by Dr. Maitha Al-Shamsi, Minister of State, UAE; and the fourth by Mr. Huseyin Ozgurgun, Foreign Minister of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

     Discussion Sessions of the first day considered the theoretical-conceptual framework and the actors in the public diplomacy in the OIC countries. Session Discussants and Presenters represented policy research institutions from the various OIC countries, as well as university professors and ambassadors. The afternoon session was about security and public diplomacy, where the participants emphasized the importance of public diplomacy in maintaining the security of the OIC countries, and highlighted the urgency of activating popular diplomacy in light of the changes occurring in some Arab countries, and the role of think tanks in this aspect.

     Discussions of the second day considered the economic and cultural activities in relation to public diplomacy, the civil society movements, and the democracy and crisis management in the OIC countries.

     Dr. Mohsen Saleh has participated as a discussant under the last title, where he identified three key reasons behind the crisis of many OIC societies and countries. these are according to Saleh, oppression, corruption, and injustice. Then, Saleh idnetified three conditions with major visible implications in these countries' policy making. These conditions are political divisions, state of backwardness and underdevelopment, military vulnerability and absence of serious scientific and academic research. Saleh noted that Islamic societies and communities are in need for a redefinition of the major issues related to identity, priorities and the available options, considering this redefinition a necessary condition for development and achievement.

     Dr. Saleh stressed that the challenge of civilizational development is essentially the challenge of making the "good" individuals, and establishing healthy and positive relations in the environments of family, work, society, the state, and humanity (globalization). On the other hand, Saleh said that the development in the Muslim world, especially in countries adjacent to Occupied Palestine, faces the additional major challenge that Israel considers any process of development and strength-building in these countries, a serious existential threat for its state, and a strategic imbalance of the regional powers; to the extent that the Israeli Occupation could oppose hinder any positive implications of the Arab uprisings witnessed today.

     The Forum was concluded with an evaluation session, and a final declaration was released on the issues of public diplomacy, soft power, and policy making in OIC countries.

     Al-Zaytouna Centre's participation in the forum comes as a part of the Centre's recent efforts in capitalizing its policy-related role and outreaching for research institutions around the world, and policy-making hubs in the Muslim countries. The Centre's work was a subject of compliment and concern by many participating experts, think-tanks, including official and non-official parties, who expressed their keen interest in possible future cooperation.

Final Declaration (Last Draft)

1 – The Second OIC Member Countries Think Tanks Forum took place within a constructive and sincere environment in Istanbul between 30-31 March 2011.

     In the Forum organized by the TASAM Institute of Islamic Countries with the contribution of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC),  it was focused on the main theme “Public Diplomacy”. Around 50 countries member and observer of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and, the General Secretariat Delegation of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Gambia, the Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates, the diplomatic mission representatives of the OIC member countries, also concerned experts and nine think tanks and media representatives from Turkey participated to the meeting.

     In the Forum studies, the general situation of the Islamic Countries in the field of “Public Diplomacy” was examined in detail. In this framework, the following subjects were taken into consideration: “Teoric- Conceptual Framework and Actors in Public Diplomacy”, “Education, Cultural Activities and Public Diplomacy”, “Foreign Policy and Public Diplomacy”, “Economic Activities and Public Diplomacy”, “Civil Society Movements, Democracy and Crisis Management in the OIC Countries” and “Cooperation and Institutionalization between Islamic Countries Think Tanks in the Perspective of Public Diplomacy”. Also, views were exchanged concerning the fields in which a cooperation is possible between Islamic Countries Think Tanks.

2- The concept of power is going through a transformation process and is being redefined. The development of technology is making a great contribution in the acceleration of this process. In the system in which new perceptions occur and the rules change, the domestic and foreign policy affect directly each other, the decisions become diversified. In this context, all the current policies have a direct relation with the public diplomacy. The concept of “Public Diplomacy” have a big importance behind the aims of the countries, having the power of human ressource, to control and constitute a one sided dependency.

3-It is confirmed by recent developments that qualified human ressource will be the focal point of the multidimensional power system which is taking shape in the world and of the brutal competion brought by this system. A large part of the investement budgets of Islamic Countries should be oriented to the development of qualified human ressources. The main objective to make up with the public should not just be to defend the government but also the human’s safety and the increase of welfare.The role attributed to the Think Tanks should also be reevaluated in the context of human welfare.

4-In the development process of the Public Diplomacy, the mechanism of thought and decision making should act together. The technological developments brought a compulsory transparency to all kind of transactions and implementation.Therefore, the decisions and their implementations must be realized within a preparation procedure acceptable by the public domestically and in the context of international law and universal principles internationally. And this necessitates to bring up the interaction between the intellectual community and the politics and bureaucracy to the highest level and to maximise the interaction between the think tanks, universities, NGO’s and the administrative levels. The success of the domestic and foreign policies in every scale is directly proportional with the contribution that the institutions of public diplomacy will make.

5- With the support of the public diplomacy institutions, it is possible to eliminate islamphobia and to constitute a bridge between civilisations. The mass communication is spreading, transparency is increasing. At this point, it has been emphasized that the role of the media in the Islamic world is important and that there are more roles to be played in this field. In order different civilisation members to leave in peace together, it is obligatory to carry the communication and interaction between them to the highest level. And this can be done by the efficient use of the public diplomacy.

6- The public diplomacy institutions act upon the the basis of the reference values. Bureaucracy is limited with its own logic. The development of original strategies depends on the competence of the public diplomacy institutions. Otherwise, the official diplomacy will be extremely insufficient in the information and communication era. For the coordination of all kind of activities between Islamic countries, it is important that the public diplomacy institutions gain an international qualification. To move traditional concepts like justice and tolerance to the new age and to ease tensions depend again on the strengthening of the public diplomacy institutions.

7- It has been insistentently emphasized that the OIC must take more initiative in regional and global issues related especially with the OIC countries. It has been proposed to develop original approaches and to strengthen the strategic decision making mechanism within the organisation for cooperation and coordination opportunities in every field. In this context, independent research units supporting the decision making mechanisms should be constituted, present research institutions and think tanks should be strengthened.

8- Programs similar to “Erasmus” that the Eureopean Union constituted should be actualised between Islamic countries and the present programs should be strengthened. A series of standards should be developed to simplify the mutual recognition of the diplomas. Weight should be güven on cooperation activities in the field of student exchange, “know how” exchange and technological change.

9-It has been accepted to activate the “OIC Member Countries Think Tanks Platform” that was constituted the first Forum that was held in January 2010 with the purpose of cooperation and coordination and the internet portal (http://www.isttp.org/) that started to broadcast in four languages. It has also been adopted that the member countries will nominate candidates in order the  “Board of Intellectual People”, which has taken place in the first year declaration, to be institutionalized and that the processes that will be followed will be finalized immediately afterwards. It has been accepted that the “Intellectual People Board” gathers in specific periods beside the annual conferences and make studies and take initiatives concerning its mission, especially conflict resolution on the basis of OIC and member countries.

10- It has been proposed to concentrate on workshops, on studies related directly tothe practicalwork and on action plans in the light of the proposals and directions of the Intellectual People Board. In this context, with the proposal and confirmation of cooperation of the Islamic Development Bank’s representative, it has been accepted to constitute an “Economic-Human Development” working group. Also, it has been accepted that a working group named “Public Administration Innovation” will be constituted. It has been decided to finalize the establishment and operation processes of the both working groups under the principle of participation as soon as possible.

11-As a result of the nominationof the member organizations to the OIC Member Countries Think Tanks Platform, it has been decided to hold the 3rd  annual meeting between 1-2 March 2012 which will be hosted by SAM (Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan) in Azerbaijan Baku, the 4th  meeting between 22-23 February 2013 which will be hosted by IDSC (Information and Decision Support Center) in Egypt Cairo, with the experience-cooperation of TASAM (the one that undertook the founder initiative and the management of the OIC Member Countries Think Tanks Platform).

Date: 31 March 2011, Istanbul


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