With its 57 members*, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (formerly Organisation of the Islamic Conference) spreads over four continents and strives to be the collective voice of the Muslim world.
Established in 1969 with its headquarters in Jeddah, the OIC aims to represent the Muslim world in order to protect and safeguard vital interests of Muslims in the spirit of promoting international peace, security and harmony as well as inter-faith dialogue among various people of the world.
The priority areas of the OIC-2025 Program of Action include issues of Peace and Security, Palestine and Al-Quds, Poverty Alleviation, Counter-terrorism, Investment and Finance, Food Security, Science and Technology, Climate Change and Sustainability, Moderation, Culture and Interfaith Harmony, Empowerment of Women, Joint Islamic Humanitarian Action, Human Rights and Good Governance, among others.
EU-OIC structured cooperation is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) concluded in 2015 aiming to (i) exchange views, develop dialogue and cooperation in areas of common interest based on mutual trust and benefit and (ii) promoting mutual understanding.
*Membership of Syria is suspended since 2012
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EU-OIC Cooperation Framework
The relations between the EU and the OIC started to develop under the initiative of the EU’s High Representative Javier Solana following the first Danish cartoons crisis in 2005.
Relations were given a new impetus at EEAS services level in the follow-up of the 2011 “Arab Spring” developments. Following an exchange of letters between the High Representative and the OIC Secretary General, a very first EEAS mission to Jeddah took place in December 2011. First informal staff-to-staff talks were held in Brussels in 2012 and technical talks took place in June 2014 in Brussels. EU-OIC Political Dialogue meetings are held regularly during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) week in September.
In 2013, the OIC opened a permanent observer mission to the EU, while the EU accredited a Head of Delegation to the OIC in 2016. Former HR/VP Mogherini and Secretary General Madani in the margins of the 2015 UNGA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the aim of enhancing dialogue and cooperation between the two institutions.
Senior Officials Meetings have been institutionalised since 2017 and further cooperation was launched with a number of joint events and resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council (Resolutions on Myanmar and Freedom of Religion and Belief combating intolerance).
The Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is also accredited as the EU Representative to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
At the last Senior Official Meeting held in July 2020 in a virtual format, the parties agreed to widen cooperation on a number of sectors such as education, cultural cooperation, women and youth empowerment, promotion of human rights and intercultural dialogue. The next EU-OIC Senior Official Meeting is scheduled for 28 March 2022 in Jeddah.
EU-OIC Cooperation in Practice
Several cooperation programmes exist between the OIC General Secretariat and the EU, covering different topics of mutual interest. A virtual workshop on election observation, which has been held in June 2021 under the theme “Election Observation: Opportunities and Challenges in the Light of the Coronavirus Pandemic”, serves as an example here. The workshop, which was attended by 28 employees from various departments of the OIC General Secretariat, aimed to support and develop the capabilities of the General Secretariat and enhance the OIC's role in observing elections.
Furthermore, the Humanitarian Department (ICHAD) of the OIC held a consultation meeting with EU Humanitarian Department DG ECHO on the 10th of February 2022. The two sides exchanged views on ways and means to enhance coordination between the OIC and the EU in areas of mutual humanitarian concern. The discussions on main humanitarian policy and operational priorities for 2022 focused on humanitarian activities in Afghanistan, the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, Rohingyas of Myanmar and the Middle East. During this meeting, both sides underlined the importance for joint humanitarian cooperation and coordination in these regions.
In the same month, the EU and OIC organised a virtual webinar on Freedom of Religion and Belief (FORB), inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue with the aim to exchange on the respective frameworks established by the EU and OIC to protect FORB and to explore opportunities for enhanced coordination and cooperation. The webinar was attended by OIC and EU officials as well as by external experts. The discussions, which were held in a cooperative and constructive atmosphere, identified a considerable common ground for possible future cooperation in regards to this matter.
A great interest exists on both sides to further enhance cooperation efforts, especially with regard to topics such as FORB as well as inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue.